2013 stats show worst residential crime zones in Columbus

tchitwood@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 1, 2014 

The neighborhood's increasing troubles are attracting attention.

The 182 offenses police reported there during 2013 bore street names such as Garden Drive, Dawson Street, Clover Lane, Harold Street, East Central Street, Andrews Road and Brennan Road.

It led the rankings of Columbus' residential police patrol zones with the most crimes last year.

The map by which police track crime geographically designates this Zone 31. It is bell-shaped, its broad southern base Cusseta Road, bordered to the west by Andrews Road and to the east by Brennan Road. Those east and west boundaries converge to a narrow tip at Buena Vista Road, near its intersection with St. Marys Road.

This is where activists with the grassroots crime-fighting group Winterfield on The Move Against Drugs target criminals.

It's also where police focused their attention this past December while searching for a 14-year-old girl who ran away from home and reportedly became involved in drugs and prostitution.

Witnesses reported seeing the girl in the area of Garden Drive, Clover Lane and Dawson Street.

It also is where police served warrants at an alleged Garden Drive "party house," a residence where adult men reportedly are entertained by underage girls plied with booze and other drugs.

No. 1: Zone 31

A review of last year's Columbus crime statistics shows Zone 31's 182 crime reports included six armed robberies, 14 aggravated assaults, 39 burglaries, 64 car break-ins and nine auto thefts.

"We've got a trailer court right down the street from 25th (Avenue), and in the back of that is Dawson, and that's where all the crime's coming out of -- prostitutes, drugs," said the Rev. Willie Phillips of Winterfield on The Move Against Drugs. "I've got to meet with the mayor on Wednesday about that place, because it's really bad in there."

Phillips said he also has heard of "party houses" in the area.

"Yes, we've had some of them pop up," he said. But prostitution out on the street is a problem, too. "You can see older men picking up young girls, especially on Dawson."

Criminals there look out for each other, he said: "It's a closed society, and they're all together in there. … You ain't going to get any help."

This neighborhood had the most offenses of any residential patrol zone, but not the most of any zone in Columbus. To accurately track the most serious crimes, some high-ranking zones must be set aside, because petty theft skews their numbers.

For example, Zone 153 had 333 offenses, 151 more than Zone 31. But that's hardly a measure of risk, because Zone 153 is the retail center Columbus Park Crossing on Whittlesey Boulevard, and 186 of its 333 crime reports -- all but 147 -- were for shoplifting.

Nineteen more were reported thefts of lost or mislaid property.

Shoplifting is not a victimless crime -- someone pays for the loss -- but it's hardly a measure of danger compared to assaults or robberies, or to property crimes that threaten a resident's personal security, such as home burglaries and car break-ins.

Zone 31's offense reports included some shopliftings, too, last year: 11, total.

Also discarded in this analysis is Zone 41, in downtown Columbus. That's because few of the crimes reported for that zone happened there.

It's home to the city's Public Safety Center, 501 10th St., and that site is listed on reports not only for crimes against the state, but also for crimes reported by victims who don't know where they were victimized.

It is a fallback address, unreliable for accurate zone comparisons.

Discarding such zones leaves the focus on residential areas where people are more likely to feel unsafe, even in their own homes.

No. 2: Zone 18

Next in those rankings is Zone 18, southeast of Zone 31. The two share a Cusseta Road border, Zone 18's northern edge. Its southern boundary is Victory Drive.

It is bordered to the west by Bull Creek, to the east by Youmans Street, Benning Drive, Singleton Drive and Fox Avenue.

Zone 18 has a hook shape caused by a gap in its middle. That gap cuts out the old Baker Village housing project, now the redeveloped Arbor Pointe.

Each public housing complex forms its own patrol zone.

Streets within Zone 18 include Winston Road, Wade Street, Fletcher Avenue, Harbison Drive and Brooks Road. Benning Drive cuts dead through the zone's center.

Of its 158 reported offenses, Zone 18 had one homicide, nine armed robberies and one attempted robbery, six aggravated assaults, 51 burglaries, 18 car break-ins and 14 car thefts. Like more commercial areas, it had some shopliftings, too: 18.

The homicide victim there was Terrell Octavis Screws, 27, of 8344 Twin Chapel Drive, who was shot repeatedly Nov. 8 in an apartment on Winston Road.

Police charged Raymond Richmond in Screws' death.

No. 3: Zone 58

Ranking third among residential patrol zones is Zone 58 north of Carver High School. Its southern border is Eighth Street and Terminal Street, its northern boundary Glenwood Drive.

To the west and east it's bordered by Rigdon Road and Morris Road.

Streets within the zone include Charleston Avenue, Carver Street, Illges Road, Morehouse Street, Booker Avenue, Enoch Drive and Fleming Avenue.

Last year the neighborhood recorded 155 crimes, including one rape, four robberies and one attempted robbery, 15 aggravated assaults, 82 burglaries, 14 car break-ins and 11 auto thefts.

No. 4: Zone 89

Ranking fourth in residential crime was Zone 89, north of Forrest Road and east of Woodruff Farm Road, an area notable last year for burglaries. The zone's northern border is Corporate Ridge Parkway; its eastern edge is a line running from Corporate Ridge Parkway south to Forrest Road, just east of Eagle Pointe Drive.

The western half of the zone has a street grid formed by long north-south avenues named Doyle, Urban, Gleason and Lansing, crossed by east-west streets named Memphis, Norton and London.

In the zone's eastern half are Huntwood Drive, Crossbow Drive, Flintlock Drive, and Arrowpoint Lane.

For 2013, the zone had one homicide, two rapes, 16 aggravated assaults, 73 burglaries, nine car break-ins and 14 auto thefts.

The zone's homicide victim was Andy Phillip, 30, found dead Oct. 9 from a gunshot wound to the back.

With his feet sticking out the driver's side door, he was in the front passenger seat of his mother's 1997 Mazda Protégé, which was parked outside 2934 Branton Woods Drive.

Police said bullets were fired through the car's rear passenger window.

No. 5: Zone 17

Ranking fifth among high-crime residential areas is a zone well known to police. It is on the far side of Victory Drive from Zone 18, the area that ranked second.

Designated Zone 17, this neighborhood occupied primarily by mobile homes on a bluff over Bull Creek and the Chattahoochee River has only a few streets: Clay Drive, Plateau Drive, Airview Drive and Leslie Drive.

Of Zone 17's 143 reported crimes were 11 armed robberies and six attempted armed robberies, eight aggravated assaults, 26 burglaries, 15 car break-ins and 19 auto thefts.

Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, who serves as the city's public safety director, said Columbus' worst crime zones tend to be economically depressed areas where offenders believe they have little to lose.

Clearing cases doesn't solve the underlying economic circumstances, she said.

"There are a couple of different ways to look at it: You've got the immediate circumstance of taking and redistributing police officers to places where you're having problems, and that's sort of an instantaneous response," she said when asked about crime after her Jan. 21 State of the City address.

"But the bottom line is, the sort of epic change that has to happen, is you have to get rid of these huge areas of poverty where individuals believe their cost-benefit analysis works out that they can take this kind of risk and harm other people. Their lives aren't worth anything more than committing a major criminal act," she added. "These are some of the areas of rank poverty where some individuals that live there don't have a lot of hope for what their future is."

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