Safety initiatives discussed in Hilltop

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By Noell Wolfgram Evans
Staff Writer

The Oct. 2 Greater Hilltop Area Commission meeting focused on safety.

Michael Huggins, the city of Columbus Code Enforcement Supervisor for the Hilltop gave a report on their activities across the past few months.

He noted that they have been keeping busy with refuse, parking, vacant homes, and other code violations. Of particular focus, especially with some of the changes in the trash collection, has been illegal dumping.

“We can now take a harder turn (in regards to punishments) with dumping in the Hilltop,” said Huggins.

Although they feel like they are always trying to catch up, Huggins encouraged residents to keep the calls regarding code concerns coming in to 311.

Code officers work closely with members of the city attorney’s office; in the Hilltop that’s with Zachary Gwin. Gwin is an assistant city attorney in the Zone Initiative. He spoke to those in attendance about the process that he undertakes once a case is referred to him. On average, he handles 100-130 cases each month although not all of those go directly to court.

“We’re really filing to get them into compliance,” he said. “If we can’t get them into compliance, then we’ll look at what the next steps are.”

Gwin reiterated what Huggins had touched on – the importance of residents calling in issues to 311 or even the non-emergency police number of (614) 645-4545.

“The more details you can provide, it’s obviously better,” he said, “because these calls help build a case for the city attorney.”

Emerald Hernández, from the city of Columbus Department of Neighborhoods, provided background on the cities’ Comprehensive Neighborhood Safety Strategy. It’s the umbrella for a number of specific programs such as Safe Streets, Crisis Intervention Training, and the CARE Coalition among others.

Hernández spoke specifically about the Neighborhood Safety Committee. The goal of the group is to work with neighborhood liaisons and community leaders to enhance the current safety programs in a community. As an example, she cited the Porchlight Program which will be rolling out soon. The program aims to help homeowners procure and install porch lights that would be non-intrusive, but help keep streets lit dusk to dawn.

She also spoke about her work as a member of the Violent Crime Review Group. When a homicide occurs, this team of 13 from across city departments, sits down to review infrastructure, data, 311 call patterns and other ancillary material that directly relates to the area adjacent to the crime. They will use this information to create an action plan to make the location safer.

In other news, commission chairman Jay McCallister announced that at the next meeting, on Nov. 13, commission members will be seeking to fill the newly vacated seat, previously held by Ruth Thurgood-Mundy. Residents interested in the position will need to be present at that meeting.

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