COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An annual anti-crime program helps make Ohio’s capital safer despite criticism from protesters of two fatal shootings by officers, police said Wednesday in releasing statistics associated with the summer initiative.
The program deploys more officers during the warmer months in an effort to stem violence in the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.
But calls for changes to the so-called community safety initiative have mounted following the fatal police shootings of 23-year-old Henry Green and 13-year-old Tyre King.
Tyre was shot Sept. 14 after he ran from an officer investigating a reported armed robbery and pulled a BB gun that looked like a real firearm, police say.
Green was shot June 6 after he ignored the commands of two plainclothes officers to drop his gun and fired on them, police say. His death came during the summer initiative.
“Despite the outcry over the Henry Green shooting incident, (the initiative) remains as a viable and effective program for the Division,” Commander Gary Cameron, the program’s director, said a Sept. 9 report on the program released Wednesday.
Statistics for the initiative show the arrests of 402 felons and the seizure of 87 firearms and nearly 5½ pounds of heroin from late May to early September.
The city’s homicide rate remains relatively unchanged over the past five years, according to the report. And the robbery rate for the summer months increased over the past four years, in part because of the opiate epidemic.
“While the statistics do not play out in dramatic fashion after the 12th year one fact is clearly evident, Columbus is safer and there are relatively fewer violent crimes perpetrated upon our children,” the report says.
The numbers come as Columbus City Council President Zach Klein has said he’s committed to reevaluating the initiative following calls from demonstrators.
Dozens of protesters packed city council chambers last week and shouted down Klein, bringing the council’s meeting to a halt. On Monday, Klein joined activists on the steps of City Hall and said he would work with his city council colleagues, the mayor and other leaders to review the program and ensure it makes the community safer.
Protest organizers say the evaluation is a starting point. They also want more money to be spent on violence prevention and intervention programs in the city’s upcoming budget.