North Side Residents Fear More Teen Violence
A city-wide effort by Columbus Police to stop teen violence and prevent hotspots for crime is getting criticism from some residents. They are worried not enough officers remain on the streets and too much gun violence is still occurring.
North side resident Thealeta Jackson is becoming more concerned about teen violence.
"The less you see the police officers the more that goes on behind the scene," said Jackson.
She says she has not seen as many police patrols since July when police redistricting took effect. Jackson who lives in the Linden area says the sounds of gunfire happen often on her street.
"It's not uncommon to hear people shooting guns off. You just get to a place that you know you can put as many walls between you and where you hear the gunfire. I don't run outside to see who's firing the gun. I make sure I'm putting myself in a safe place," explained Jackson.
An increase in teen violence this summer has left 5 teens dead since June. So far this year, 20 young people ages 20 and under have been killed. Columbus Police Sgt. Dean Worthington explains police patrols have not been reduced.
"We're still maintaining our patrol levels that we've had in the past. You know her perception may be that there's less crews out there but we haven't reduced the number of cruisers that are in patrol," said Worthington.
Worthington adds community response teams have been added to use bike patrols that target hot spots where crime occurs.
"It's just that we can't saturate the city with these teams all at once. Because what we want to do is focus on an area, go into that area, have a large police presence and then move on to the next hot spot area," Worthington said. Worthington would not say how many bike patrols there are. A gun violence reduction team is also focusing on getting guns out of the hands of teenagers. That program started in the early part of this summer. Sgt. Worthington however, would not reveal the number of weapons taken off the streets since the program is ongoing. Pastor of Kingdom Life Church at the corner of Fifth and Cleveland Avenues, Mary Ellen Crutcher, supports police efforts to stop the violence. She blames a down economy and desperation for the bad choices teens make. "People need hope and people need to really know the love of God. They really need to know the love of community. They really need to know that there are people that genuinely care about them. And that there are ways they can be helped if they would open themselves up to the help," explained Crutcher.
Crutcher is skeptical tougher gun laws would help since teens are currently not allowed to carry guns. Crutcher's church has reached out to various community groups and other churches to find solutions on reaching troubled teens and give them hope for the future before they turn to violence.