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Coleman seeks more strike forces despite unclear results

The strike force targeted areas such as Columbus' Linden neighborhood which had seen a sharp increase in crime. MC's House of Styles is a barber shop on Cleveland Avenue.

Bo Burns, who works there, says he was very aware of the increased police presence this summer. Burns says at first some people thought the extra officers were there responding to an emergency. Some residents were afraid to go out doors. But he says that changed after a while.

"Where a lot of people that was in this neighborhood was afraid to come out knowing that there was police officers out here that they didn't have a problem coming out. You know, some of the elderly people and some of the young kids and everything. So me personally I could tell the difference."

In September, as the increased police presence ended, Mayor Coleman said the strike force did make a difference. The mayor says 57 officers, working overtime, hit high crime areas on weekends for six weeks during the summer. Coleman says police made 292 arrests, confiscated 35 guns and 15 knives and recovered 20 stolen cars.

The Mayor says the effort was a tremendous success.

"We have put criminals in jail, arrested felons, arrested gang members, and it seems to me when you do those sort of things you're successful."

But did the strike force actually reduce crime? Neither the Mayor nor the police department has any other statistical information to support that claim. There is no available data indicating that the murder, assault or rape rates declined during that time.

Statistics supervisor, Lieutenant David Watkins, says because the strike force targeted different areas of the city it will be almost impossible to tell if the initiative actually reduced crime.

"Unless you had somebody raise their hand and say hey I was arrested during that sweep and I had a gun in my hand and was going to kill somebody with it, but I didn't do it because I got arrested. It's just impossible to tell if that might have happened."

While Columbus' crime stats are not easily accessible other cities' figures are. Cincinnati posts department crime data monthly on its website. Officer Paul Byers helps analyze crime statistics for the Cincinnati police.

"When a crime report is made the report is given to a data entry clerk who enters the data. We have one analyst who extracts that data from the mainframe and compiles statistics based on the information in that download."

Cleveland does not post their information on the web but maintains statistics and makes them available upon requests. While the Columbus Division of Police does not publish statistics, officials say they do monitor data. Watkins says this information is used to make assignments like the ones during the strike force.

"We don't really provide statistics to citizens because our data is live and it's intended for police use in approaching the strategy to deal with crime and not looking at true statistics. Sometimes when we give out statistical information or if we did for an area in a very recent time that statistical data may not be right."

Watkins says that's because the crime reports may be coded wrong and have to be corrected manually in the department's electronic system.

But Watkins says at some point the department will review this summer's data to see if crime diminished. "Well, it's something that we'll, you know, at some point, maybe this time next year, we can look at, or maybe even before that we can look at or and we have time to look at each of those areas that we attacked and then compare it to a previous time period."

Even without hard numbers comparing this summer's crime rate to last summer's, Coleman maintains the strike force was a success.

"But I can tell you when you put a bad guy in jail, that bad guy's in jail. But he wouldn't be in jail for the strike force. It's kind of like common sense. So the common sense overrides data."