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'Safe Streets' Results Slip In New Neighborhoods

Mayor Ginther speaking about Safe Streets at the Reeb Center on Columbus' South Side
Nick Evans
Mayor Ginther speaking about the safe streets program at the Reeb Center on Columbus' South Side

Columbus' Safe Streets program began in the Linden neighborhood last year, and its success prompted expansion to the Parson’s corridor and the Hilltop. But the latest results are not as promising as the pilot.

Safe Streets uses bicycle officers to increase contact between police and the community. In the program's first year in Linden, violent crime, both with and without guns, saw a significant decline.

But the same results have not carried over to the South Side and the West Side. Those neighborhoods saw at least modest increases in both categories.

Still, Mayor Andrew Ginther isn’t worried about the program's long-term success.

"I am very optimistic and, based on the response I've heard from community leaders here today and residents throughout the city this summer, they’re big supporters of this," Ginther says. "And so we’re excited about the difference it’s going to make in safety in the future."

In the Parsons corridor, this year's violent crime reports number 169, or 21.58 percent higher than in 2017. Gun-related violent crime reports rose from 55 to 62 between this year and last – an increase of 12.73 percent.

In the Hilltop, increases were more modest. There have been 188 violent crime reports this year, 5.62 percent higher than last year’s mark. When it comes to gun-related violent crimes, reports increased from 50 to 51 this year.

But Ginther points to the number of regular interactions between police and residents. He insists the program should be considered holistically, and those contacts will build trust and pay dividends over time.

"When you take a look at it collectively, there's no doubt about it – it's making an impact," Ginther says.

Commander Jennifer Knight, supervisor for the Linden neighborhood Safe Streets program, takes a similar view, urging patience as the project rolls out in new neighborhoods.

"We need to make adjustments, and we need to build that foundation," she says. "And we need to sustain it because over time, that relationship is what is going to drive those numbers down."

In terms of property crime, Linden, the Hilltop and the Parsons corridor all saw reductions. Most notably, property crime in Linden dropped by more than 30 percent this year.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.