© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Business groups in Short North, downtown Columbus to step up crime prevention after shootings


Updated: May 16, 2023, 6:18 AM ET

Recent violence in the Short North Arts District is prompting city officials and business leaders to take action to deter crime in the area.

Columbus City Council voted Monday to give $500,000 to two business groups in the shopping district and downtown: The Short North Alliance and Capitol Crossroads Special Improvement District. Two shootings on North High Street in the last two weeks left one person dead and at least 10 people injured.

The ordinance will instruct the Columbus Division of Police to work with the business districts to develop plans to deter crime and improve safety through the city's Business District Safety Enhancement Program.

The Short North Alliance is a nonprofit serving both the property owners and business owners of the Short North Arts District and the surrounding area. Capital Crossroads is a self-taxing entity and an association of 500 commercial and residential property owners in the core of downtown Columbus.

The Short North Alliance said in an email statement that The safety of those who live, work, and visit The Short North remains our top priority, and it is committed to partnering with elected leaders, the Columbus Police Department, businesses, resident and other community stakeholders to implement necessary changes that will reduce gun violence throughout Columbus.

The group did not elaborate what these necessary changes could be.

At the council meeting, Council member Emmanuel Remy said the organizations will use the funds for special duty Columbus police officers, educational campaigns and community outreach workers. He said these are in an effort to address violent crimes in their districts.

"This neighborhood safety program is part of a much larger community investment strategy employed by the city of Columbus to provide safe and resilient communities," he said.

Capitol Crossroads deputy director of operations Lisa Defendiefer said its share of the funding will help get more security cameras, special duty police officers and citizen ambassadors. It will also go towards coordinating different security groups in downtown, adding de-escalation trainings for those groups and extending the office's hours from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Defendiefer said the SID wants to get ahead of the curve in case shootings become more frequent downtown.

"We're fortunate in the sense that the the activity that happens in the core of downtown has been really centered around more quality of life issues, but it's pretty rare that we have violent crime taking place," Defendiefer said.

She said these quality of life issues include car break-ins, pan-handling or trespassing. The organization also has homeless outreach specialists downtown.

Defendiefer said the Short North Alliance could end up using the funds in similar ways to Capital Crossroads. The groups both have citizen ambassadors that she says act as eyes and ears for police and help people having a crisis get connected to services.

She said comparing the core of downtown Columbus to the Short North can't be an apples-to-apples comparison. The Short North has a higher concentration of nightclubs, bars and restaurants.

With additional security cameras, Defendiefer said both areas probably have certain locations they'd like to have under further surveillance.

"There's particular areas of both of our districts that are probably what we would call maybe a little more of a hotspot where we just want to kind of keep an eye on on the area," she said.

Defendiefer said these efforts could not only help improve safety, but draw crowds back to downtown Columbus. She said having a more reassuring presence with ambassadors and police could make people more comfortable.

"I think if you spoke to any business downtown or resident, what's top of mind for them is definitely security downtown. And I think the vast majority of people would say that having a team that's in uniform, out in the field, whether that's our special duty or our homeless outreach or ambassadors or a cleaning team, to that, their mere presence makes a world of difference," she said.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.