Police: Safe streets pilot program has reduced gun violence

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The Columbus Division of Police says a pilot program called Linden Safe Streets helped reduce gun violence in the northeast Columbus neighborhood this summers.

The goal of the program was to get officers out of cruisers and send them into neighborhoods on bicycles to get to know people and listen to their concerns. The mission was clear.

"Ride around the neighborhood, talk to the youth, if they see somebody in their yard, drive up, give them a business card, talk to them about their neighborhood. Introduce yourself," said CPD Commander Jennifer Knight.

Commander Knight said between May and August, highly visible Safe Street officers made more than 2,100 contacts with neighbors and handed out 468 business cards.

Knight credits Linden Safe Streets for helping to build a nuisance abatement complaint against Moses One Stop Shop in the 1600 block of Cleveland Avenue after neighbors repeatedly claimed it was the "epicenter of crime" in the area.

"And within a couple months the entire market was abated...shut down. That's the kind of response that the citizens in Linden deserve," said Commander Knight.

Linden Safe Streets seized 23 guns, recovered six stolen cars, and confiscated more than 167 grams of heroin and 55 grams of cocaine. Officers made 28 felony arrests and served 17 felony arrest warrants. CPD says the effort paid off.

Between May and August 2016, Linden was the target of 42 acts of gun violence. This year, with Safe Streets in operation, that number dropped to 19.

Police said overall the program resulted in a 55 percent reduction. in reported gun violence.

Commander Knight says in order to commit 12 officers to Safe Streets, CPD had to pay overtime to keep enough officers in cruisers answering calls for service.

The president of the Fraternal Order of Police, Jason Pappas, said he's calling for the addition of 200 officers to the force to keep up with the growth of the city and curb violent crime.

So far this year, Columbus police have investigated 113 homicides. It's the highest murder rate in more than a decade.