Is the Ohio State Highway Patrol straying from its mission?
That's the question an East Columbus neighborhood has raised after witnessing state troopers leaving the highways and patrolling their streets.
Mike Aaron with the Driving Park Civic Association says, in recent months, Ohio Highway Patrol troopers have become a common presence in his neighborhood.
He says he's been pulled over. "State Patrolman was at the corner of Frebis and Lockbourne, totally away from the highway, totally away from any state route," says Aaron.
He's not alone. "How many of you have seen the State Highway Patrol in Driving Park within the last six months?" he asked a room where many raised hands.
Many also said they have seen the State Highway Patrol pulling others over in the last six months.
They say Columbus Police are a frequent, welcome presence on their streets.
But neighbors say the Highway Patrol should patrol highways.
"We are not averse to police presence in our neighborhood," says Aaron. "What does concern us is when you have the State Highway Patrol patrolling the interior of Driving Park."
"It feels like they're targeting a working class neighborhood where people have a hard time making ends meet," says Brian Scarpino, president of the Livingston Avenue Area Commission. "If they were here to stop some of the real crime we care about, then we'd be in full embrace. But a lot of the community feels disenfranchised and targeted."
Aaron knows many people would say more police equals more safety, which would be a good thing.
"And it is," he says, "unless you're harassing the neighbors in the community. That's where the problem comes in. You know, we haven't had this issue with the Columbus Police, neither with the Franklin County Sheriff's Department."
At the last minute, the Ohio State Highway Patrol opted not to attend a meeting Wednesday night after 10tv contacted them for comment.
A spokesperson tells 10TV when they agreed to the meeting, it was to discuss how troopers do their job, not their presence in Driving Park.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol says the purpose of the meeting was "misrepresented" to them, something Mike Aaron adamantly denies.
The Patrol declined to comment on the concerns raised at the meeting, but said it is open to hearing from residents.
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