Columbus officials Tuesday provided an update on the city's safety strategy, and the mayor offered a glimpse at his 2019 budget proposal.
Mike Foley reports.
Columbus' comprehensive neighborhood safety strategy has been in place for a full year. Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther says while he's far from calling it a success, he's very pleased with the progress being made.
"To date, there have been 93 homicides compared with 114 at this same time last year," Mayor Ginther said. "Violent crime as a whole is continuing to decrease as well. The incidents of homicide rate, aggravated burglary and assault have tracked lower in 2018 than 2017 in ten of the 12 months.
The multi-departmental approach includes enhanced policing efforts, but also community-building elements. Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts explains one such program that helps the city rapidly mobilize services to a neighborhood impacted by a homicide.
"The CARE coalition knocked on doors and distributed trauma care and grief counseling resources to approximately 290 homes," Dr. Roberts said. "The CARE social workers contacted seven next-of-kin and offered grief support and services to those families. The Department of Neighborhoods reviewed nearly 8 square miles and conducted lighting assessments and reviewed 311 complaints to immediately identify and fix problems that might be contributing to violence and crime. The Department of Development identified 227 homes in need of enforcement, repairs, and cleanup near the homicide. Recreation and Parks interventionists engaged 28 community members to gain information and help prevent retaliatory attacks."
The police bike patrol program known as the Safe Streets Initiative, which had been only in Linden, expanded to include the Hilltop and South Side. Columbus Safety Director Ned Pettus Jr. says it improved police-community relations in those areas.
"Officers served as the first line of communication for residents needing city services and for connecting residents with other city departments to resolve non-law enforcement related problems," Pettus said. "This initiative, which ran roughly between May and September, resulted in 8,351 contacts with residents, attendance at 151 community events, 279 felony arrests, and the recovery of illegal firearms, drugs, currency, and stolen cars."
Mayor Ginther says his forthcoming $912 million budget proposal for 2019 will again focus heavily on safety with $622.5 million. Ginther says it includes funding for an expansion of the Safe Streets initiative.
"I am proposing $2.9 million for the program to expand the duration beyond May to September in those three target neighborhoods," Ginther said referring to the Safe Streets initiative. "That means more time for our officers to build and enhance those relationships with the community, more time to gather information and intelligence to help us prevent and solve crimes, more time to see a continued reduction in crime in our neighborhoods. I've also budgeted for two new police recruit classes of 40 each. I'm excited to announce that Public Safety will implement a cadet program for police and fire in 2019 that will help us build a pipeline of qualified, diverse candidates to enter our safety forces."
Ginther will unveil his full operating budget later today.