On Nov. 9, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced that more than $660 million will be allocated to the Department of Public Safety in his proposed 2022 operating budget. This includes funding for three police and three fire recruit classes, adding a total of 170 new police officers and 125 new firefighters in the coming year.
“Over the past year, we have seen an increase in separations from our sworn safety forces, particularly from the Columbus Division of Police,” said Ginther. “My proposed operating budget includes funding for three new recruit classes to keep staffing at current levels. The officers will be trained extensively in community policing, which is crucial to bridging the divide between the community and the police while addressing the current spike in crime.”
Public Safety Director Robert Clark also outlined his vision for safety initiatives to address crime and build trust with the community. His new version of the Comprehensive Neighborhood Safety Strategy was developed with community feedback, insights from law enforcement professionals and data-driven, proven best practices from other cities.
“My 35 years in law enforcement has made clear we cannot arrest our way out of these problems,” Clark said. “We have to find new ways to do old things. That means community engagement, resident involvement and innovative programming that promote health, healing and restoration.”
New and expanded neighborhood safety strategies will be funded in part through the operating budget for public safety as well as other city departments involved in the comprehensive effort.
Key initiatives include:
• Expanding the Alternative Response Program, which imbeds social workers and mental health professionals in 9-1-1 dispatch to facilitate more precise and robust emergency responses.
• Expanding the city’s successful Safe Streets bike patrol to additional neighborhoods.
• Expanding the city’s RREACT (Rapid Response Emergency Addiction Crisis Team) efforts, an initiative that provides follow-up services for opiate overdose patients.
• Continuing TAPS (Teens and Police Service), a program that connects youth with police mentors.
• Forming the Police Athletic League to promote healthy habits and physical activity while establishing trusting bonds between youth and public safety personnel.
• Continuing cross-departmental responses to neighborhoods by coordinating city resources to create physical deterrents to crime.
• Continuing investments in GVI (Group Violence Intervention) to advance strategies and resources that reduce violent crime.
• Working with city departments and outside partners such as the Columbus Urban League for youth interventions, including PEP (Parent Enrichment Program), a collaboration with Columbus Urban League and Franklin County Municipal Courts to provide enrichment classes to families who have children on the cusp of entering the criminal justice system.
• Continuing the work of the CARE Coalition and VOICE (Violence, Outreach, Intervention and Community Engagement), a hospital-based intervention program for victims of violent attacks.
• Continuing investments in young people through My Brother’s Keeper as well as extensive programming in the city’s Recreation and Parks Department.
“Our approaches to reducing crime in our city must also address the root causes of crime, including poverty, housing, food insecurity and joblessness,” said Ginther. “We will tackle these safety challenges by working with departments, partners and residents throughout all our neighborhoods. Everyone has a role to play in building a safer, more resilient community.”
Ginther will unveil his proposed 2022 general fund budget on Nov. 15.