The 2008 Summer Strike Force is ready to roll, and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman has a message for would-be criminals in the city: "The strike force is going to get you and put you in jail."
This is the fourth year for the Strike Force, a summer anti-crime initiative led by the Columbus Division of Police. It attempts to thwart the efforts of criminals through proactive policing and neighborhood involvement.
It focuses on improving communities by eliminating the elements that contribute to what Coleman dubs "the most serious crimes in Columbus," drugs, gangs and guns.
Some of the strategies employed by the Strike Force include daily statistical analysis of violent crime, known street gang areas, problem bars and other establishments, requests from officers and tips from residents.
Coleman emphasized that the program is being conducted citywide, or "boundary to boundary."
Participating offers will not work under certain jurisdictions, but instead will patrol the areas where crime is occurring. Those locations will be discussed and evaluated on a daily basis.
"They are empowered by the mayor’s office to develop strategies and respond as needed," Coleman added.
In the past three years, the Strike Force has led to 2,187 arrests and confiscated 449 guns.
"These are guns that could have, and probably would have, been used to commit violent crimes. They are now off the streets."
Officers participating in the Summer Strike Force are selected by their commanding officers. They are chosen based on their knowledge of Columbus neighborhoods and their successful performance track record.
According to Commander Richard Bash of the Columbus Division of Police, the officers chosen to serve the initiative are taken off their regular patrol duties and given added training.
They hit the street hard and they hit the street running," said Bash.
City Council member Andrew Ginther, public safety committee chairman, added, "These are some of our youngest, most aggressive and creative officers. You can see on their faces that they love what they do."
Ginther added that the city might expect to see an upswing in criminal activity this summer "due to the economic downturn that has occurred."
"There are a lot of folks feeling helpless and like they’ve got nothing to lose."
One major change to the Summer Strike Force from years past is the emphasis on neighborhood and community involvement.
"Who knows better what’s going on than the community leaders?" Ginther asked.
Residents with information regarding drug and weapon violations are asked to call 311 (645-3111) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. All other crimes should be reported to 645-4545.
"We’re out there and we need your help," said Bash.
While the Summer Strike Force does operate within a certain time frame during the summer months, the dates for the beginning and end of the initiative, along with the hours of patrol, are not being released.
"We don’t want them to know we’re coming, but we are coming," said Coleman.
Columbus gets a curfew
Another big change coming this summer to Columbus is the introduction of a citywide curfew for minors.
"As parents and as adults, we’re trying to establish a community standard," said Coleman.
The curfew, which begins June 5, applies to all minors under 17 years of age.
Children aged 12 and under are required to be home one hour after sunset, and those between the ages of 13-17 should be inside by midnight. The curfew restrictions will remain in effect until 4:30 a.m. each morning.
"We want to protect our children because when they’re out past midnight, they’re in harm’s way," said Coleman. "Parents need to know where they are."
Children picked up on curfew violations will be taken to a YMCA Curfew Center.
Officers participating in the Summer Strike Force, however, will not be focusing on curfew violations.
"They will keep their attention focused on violence, drugs, gangs and guns," said Coleman. "All other patrolling officers will have the option and discretion to enforce this."