COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — An apartment complex plagued with violence will be getting some security improvements.
Each year, Columbus police get hundreds of calls for service to the Wedgewood Village Apartments on the city’s west side. In the past week, two teens have been injured by bullets coming through their apartment window.
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein’s office said in the coming weeks, it plans to add security cameras at three intersections on Wedgewood Drive: At Sullivant Ave, at Briggs Rd and at Eakin Road.
Klein’s office said violence at Wedgewood dates back many years. Changes must happen, the office said, or it will take legal action against the the apartment owners.
Zerqa Abid, founder and executive director of MY Project USA, has been involved with improving the Wedgewood community since 2015.
“In 2017, it rose to 17 shootings and seven homicides in seven months,” Abid said.
She said since things have improved since then, but not enough. With the city’s backing, she said she is hopeful to see change.
“This partnership has a lot of good recommendations. We have discussed things at length,” Abid said.
Making the complex safer has been a multi-year process involving the city attorney’s office, MY Project USA and Wedgewood’s administration — as well as Columbus Police.
Abid said during her time on the Greater Hilltop Area Commission, the apartment owners came with some proposals for change. Among those proposals was one to demolish some of the apartments to separate the community from Sullivant Avenue, requiring the owners to submit apply for a zoning permit.
“They needed rezoning approval, they came to the area commission and at that time area commissioners also told them a few things they would like to see. And the major thing always (with) whoever has been involved in Wedgewood is how do we make sure that the living space and experience in living there is improved,” Abid said.
That request was approved, but the land still sits vacant.
Klein stepped in last month to push for changes like adding more cameras, lighting, fencing and a special duty patrol.
Both Klein and Abid said the apartment owners have been very receptive to conversations.
In a statement, Klein said that “Wedgewood residents deserve better.”
“It’s clear the measures taken by property owners to date do not go far enough to ensure the safety and security of residents and neighbors,” Klein said. “Additional action by property owners to improve lighting, fencing and shore up other security deficiencies is urgent and it is necessary.
Klein said his office and CPD are reviewing the latest shootings to determine if further legal action is necessary.
“No child should fear playing outside. No family should have to worry if their kids will make it back from the bus stop after school,” Klein said. “No tenant should have to live in fear of gunshots and violent crime at their doorstep.”
The complex is owned by American Community Developers out of Detroit, Michigan.
Jim Harrigan, who represents the company as well as their management team, Independent Management Services, said the group is also deeply concerned about the violence. Harrigan said he has monthly meetings with Klein’s office for this reason.
However, Harrigan blamed the violence on a lack of police presence at the complex and CPD’s understaffing issues.
Harrigan said there used to be a private security company at Wedgewood, but the residents did not take them seriously. The group hired CPD to have off-duty patrol officers at the complex at all hours, but he said that patrol has dwindled in recent months.
NBC4 has reached out to CPD for more information about this partnership and to talk about its staffing. CPD told NBC4 it is looking into the matter and will have an answer soon.
In the end, all parties said they want to see changes so no more innocent families are caught in the crossfire.
“I want people to understand that the children who are at risk are not bad children,” Abid said. “They are just the good children trapped in bad situations and bad neighborhoods especially.”
Abid said if owners are willing to part with the lot left empty from demolitions, she wants to buy or lease it and turn it into a safe recreation space for children.