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Columbus homicides fell by a third in 2022, largest percent reduction among 20 largest U.S. cities

Columbus homicides fell by 33 percent last year over 2021, the largest percent reduction among the 20 largest U.S. cities.

Columbus also made strides in reducing thefts, assaults and rape cases, city leaders announced Thursday.

"Our homicide detectives have worked and will continue to work exhaustively to solve homicides," said Columbus Division of Police Chief Elaine Bryant. "In 2022, the unit closed 109 cases—87 from 2022 and 22 from previous years—which resulted in a close rate of 79 percent."

In addition to the reduced homicide rate in 2022, several other categories saw improvements when compared to 2021:

• Robberies decreased by 32%
• Burglaries decreased by 21%
• Felonious assaults decreased by 16%
• Rapes decreased by 5.7%

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther praised the city's police officers, firefighters and paramedics for their hard work and diligence in reducing violent crime. "We've come a long way, but this is not a victory lap, and we are not resting on our laurels," Ginther said. "We will not rest, and I will not yield until we are the safest big city in America. We're not there yet."

Guns were involved in nearly 90 percent of Columbus homicides in 2022. Columbus Police seized more than 3,300 firearms last year, which is a new record for the division.

Ginther blamed the trend on what he called "probably the most reckless and dangerous gun policy" in Ohio state history. "I don't know why we're surprised. We let an assault weapons ban expire in 2004. We have a proliferation of guns on city streets, in our neighborhoods across America. And then somehow or another, we're shocked that there's an increase in violence," Ginther said.

2022 also saw an increase in motor vehicle thefts in Columbus, in line with a national phenomenon of mostly young people targeting Kia and Hyundai automobiles.

Chief Bryant called it a community issue, and one that won't necessarily be solved by "locking everyone up and throwing away the key." "A lot of those kids are in that moment of 'this is where I'm living right now.' They don't think about their future. They don't think about the consequences going down the road," Bryant said.

"We want to make sure that we try to get to them, show them, mentor them, that they can have a future, that they can go to college, that they can get trade jobs, that they can join the police department, but they can't do those things if they continue down this path," Bryant said.

Matthew Rand is the Morning Edition host for 89.7 NPR News. Rand served as an interim producer during the pandemic for WOSU’s All Sides daily talk show.