Columbus summer safety program viable despite pushback, report says


COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther says that as he prepares his budget proposal, he’s weighing various input about an annual anti-crime program that has been criticized by protesters after two fatal shootings by police in Ohio’s capital.

Ginther told the Associated Press the Community Safety Initiative has helped keep neighborhoods safe for many years and it’s always evolving.

Police released crime statistics for the summer program on Wednesday just as city officials are evaluating the initiative.

Commander Gary Cameron led the summer safety initiative. “We were out there working very hard not just to tackle violent crime but to engage the community,” Cameron said.

Cameron says in the 12 years since the city started the summer program, the overall violent crime rate for Columbus has dropped more than 30 percent. “So in the entire eastern half of the United States among cities with populations over 500 thousand, we have the lowest violent crime rate,” Cameron said.

Cameron’s report recommendations call for a funding increase to the program to boost the number of officers over the summertime.

Asked in a Wednesday interview whether he would seek more money, Ginther told The Associated Press he’s still meeting with law enforcement, community leaders and others as he works to finalize his proposal.

The report, released Wednesday, details the program’s crime statistics. The figures show 402 arrests, 87 firearms removed from the streets and nearly 2 ½ kilograms of heroin seized from late May to late August.

Cameron declined to further discuss his recommendations, though said in an interview funding was higher in the program’s early years.

Cameron says in addition to focusing on violent offenders, officers working in the summer initiative made a concerted effort to visit businesses and recreation centers. “The true measure of CSI has been and always will be that there’s less violent crime especially among our youth and that the community truly feels safer.”

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