COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — A shooting near a Columbus recreation center has some residents questioning if the city’s parks and community centers are safe.
One 16-year-old is recovering after being shot Wednesday during a fight across the street from the Linden Community Center. In 2022, there were six shootings in April and May at city parks or recreation centers — three of which were deadly.
Columbus Division of Police Commander Mark Denner said that at this time, the division’s approach will be similar to last year, including by having a visible presence at parks and an eye on the stationed cameras.
“We are hoping to build upon that and have some success with holding individuals accountable, maybe preventing crime, but also allowing people to come to the parks and feel like they can enjoy without having that fear,” Denner said
Denner believes the parks are safe overall, but said he wants people who are concerned to know Columbus police are working to make them safer.
“Ultimately, we want people to know that these are city resources, these are great areas, and they just need to feel safe and that’s just where we need to continue to do that work,” Denner said.
Columbus police also wants to build on its partnerships with the community, he said, in the hopes that it will increase potential tips and enable police to intervene sooner.
Derrick Russell, the founder of community organization Linden Community and Columbus Ohio Stop the Violence, said seeing more violence near a community center frustrates him because pf how frequently he believes these incidents are happening.
Russell sees the community’s role as having their boots on the ground. He is working on programs to teach youth how to deal with conflict without guns and on a job readiness program for local kids to steer them away from trouble.
“We can’t be like, ‘Okay, we have programming, but we are not out here implementing the programming we put in place to the youth.’ We’ve got to stay consistent, and we eventually will start winning them over,” Russell said.
All community centers have crisis intervention teams available on site, according to the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department.
“We have staff on site through our apps program who are here to provide resources to the family who might be looking for some additional resources as they may be processing through trauma or grief,” said Dominique Shank, the department’s community relations chief.
Shank wants to assure their facilities are safe, and that they also regularly work with Columbus police on that.