COLUMBUS (AP) – The mayor of Ohio’s largest city on Thursday proposed replacing an anti-crime summer initiative unpopular with community activists with a program boosting neighborhood foot and bike patrols and other initiatives.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said he would invest $2 million in his upcoming budget to pay for the “neighborhood safety strategies fund” to cover overtime for the increased patrols.
The Democratic mayor also said an additional $1.8 million would cover the cost of street lights, after-school programs and code-enforcement in a new city Department of Neighborhoods. Another $500,000 would go to efforts to fight opioid addiction.
Ginther’s announcement comes as the city faces a soaring homicide rate, with 113 slayings to date this year.
The mayor noted roughly one in every two of those killings is unsolved with no motive or suspect, and an increased number of shots are being fired during crimes, leading to more victims.
“Violent crimes create a ripple of trauma and crisis throughout the entire neighborhood,” Ginther said.
Ginther also cited the impact of the opioid crisis and strained community relations with the police department as challenges faced by the city.
Among other safety programs the mayor proposed Thursday: boosting efforts to solve gang- and drug-related homicides; two new police recruit classes, each with 35 candidates; and an advisory committee to study best practices for police training, policies and procedures.
The anti-crime summer initiative has been criticized since Henry Green was fatally shot last year by two police officers working in the program, who said Green opened fire on them. Green was black. The officers are white.
A lawsuit by Green’s family against the city is one of 26 pending lawsuits alleging police violated residents’ civil rights.
Documents also show the city has paid more than $4 million to individuals who alleged civil rights violations over the past decade. Although a hefty amount, that’s a far cry from amounts paid by other cities.
In Dallas, records show the city has spent almost $11 million in the past five years settling more than 20 lawsuits against police. Cleveland has agreed to pay more than $13 million in a little over two years to settle lawsuits over police misconduct.
And in Chicago, police misconduct has cost the city a staggering $660 million since 2004.