COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Federal and local authorities announced a surge of enforcement to curb gun violence in parts of Columbus.
Officials will ramp up enforcement in two Columbus neighborhoods: Hilltop and Linden.
According to local crime statistics, 20 homicides were committed from January to mid-September in Columbus police zone 3, which includes the Hilltop. The Hilltop police zone reported 35 non-fatal shootings this summer.
Columbus police zone 4 encompasses Linden. During the first eight and a half months of 2020, 24 homicides were committed in zone 4. There were 36 non-fatal shootings in zone 4 during summer 2020.
David DeVillers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, said his office will work with law enforcement, Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien’s office, and City Attorney Zach Klein’s office. These groups will work together to identify the most violent offenders and charge them with federal crimes, which often carry harsher sentences than state offenses.
DeVillers also announced that 205 defendants have been charged with firearms-related crimes during Fiscal Year 2020.
“If you’re prohibited from possessing a gun and you get caught with a firearm in this district, you’re going to federal prison,” he said. “You’re going to prison for years, not months. You’re not getting probation and you are going out of the state to a Bureau of Prisons facility.”
DeVillers made this announcement just days after the city of Columbus recorded its 126th homicide of 2020.
“This is unprecedented,” he said.
DeVillers said he will freeze some work within his office on nonviolent crimes so staff can focus on this effort.
“We’re going to prioritize those resources, those U.S. attorneys, to prosecute violent crimes and gun crimes, specifically in the Linden and Hilltop areas,” he said. “That’s to say we are going to take every single firearm and violent crime and federal firearm violent crime that we can take.”
This move drew accolades from O’Brien, Klein and Roland Herndon, Special Agent in Charge with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“The addition of the additional state attorneys and local partners, as special U.S. attorneys, will definitely increase our ability to seek federal charges against those willing to commit federal firearms violations,” Herndon said.
DeVillers said this effort will be reevaluated every 90 days as there is no timetable on when it will end.
“We want this to be a warning,” he said. “We want this to be a shock and awe to the individuals that may be committing these violent crimes.”