Community Crime Patrol returns to the Hilltop
Columbus City Council announced it will not only restore the Community Crime Patrol (CCP), but also expand the program.
Additional patrol officers are a result of a $313,000 amendment to the general fund budget, announced Council president Andrew Ginther and Safety Committee Chair Michelle Mills.
Citizen Patrollers assist the Columbus Division of Police in control and prevention of crime in the downtown, Weinland Park, Linden, Hilltop, Franklinton, Merion, Southwood, Ohio State University area and the Metro Parks Greenway Trails.
“We typically refer to it as a suped-up block watch,” CCP Executive Director Ellen Moore said. “Patrollers are paid and are basically trained in a lot of different areas, but mostly in foot patrol and bike patrol.”
CCP officers are taught to spot suspicious behavior, how to report a crime and how to address quality of life issues like burned-out streetlights, missing street signs or code violations.
“Officers do a lot more than look for criminal activity,” Moore said.
Moore said the program is completely non-intervention. If officers see something suspicious they report it to the appropriate authorities.
Most of the officers employed by the CCP come from the criminology department at The Ohio State University. They are college students looking for part time law enforcement work in their field so they can go into law enforcement full time after graduation.
“We have sent about 40 patrollers to the Columbus Division of Police over the years,” Moore said. “It’s a nice program to see if someone is interested in the law enforcement program.”
Participation in the Community Crime Patrol program gives the patrol officers an opportunity to gain experience, Mills said.
The program employs about 25 police officers, but with increased funding they hope to bump the roster to 35.
Mills said relationship building is critical to the success of the program. The patrollers respond to non-violent crime and build relationships in their zones.
The Westgate Blockwatch knows how effective having an extra presence in a neighborhood can be.
Karen Lorenz, coordinator of the blockwatch, said the CCP would not impact Westgate as much as other communities. The blockwatch program has had its own bike patrol for three years and a car patrol program for seven years, she said.
There are about seven or eight residents out a night looking for suspicious activity and a couple during the day.
“They have stopped a lot of crime,” Lorenz said. “The word is out.”
The CCP will be helpful in areas of the Westside like Camp Chase and Westgate Park, which has seen increased criminal activity. The CCP look for people out past curfew, drinking alcohol in parks or problems in the parking lot.
“We have had a lot of trouble at the park. A lot of people will be there past curfew and we did have some prostitution off and on,” Lorenz said.
Mari Ann Binder Futty, president of the Westgate Neighborhood Association, said the CCP will help, especially on the east and south sides.
“Those bicycles can easily go where the cruisers can’t,” Futty said. “They are not as easily detected. They can go through the alleys easy into Westgate. At night there have been problems at Westgate Park.”
Futty said Westgate residents are thrilled to see the funding levels restored, even though crime was pretty low in the month of March. She said having the CCP presence might deter criminal activity coming into the community.
“Obviously that kind of presence is always a good thing because we understand that crime is coming in from the outside,” Futty said. “We are glad to have them back.”