The overall crime rate in Columbus is at its lowest in six years, according to FBI statistics released Tuesday by the city.
The rates of six of the seven most serious crimes are down over the first three quarters of the year, compared to a year-to-date average of the last six years. Only the homicide rate is above average -- there have been 17 so far this year compared to a year-to-date average of 15 over the last six years.
Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, whose job includes serving as public safety director, attributed the overall decline in the crime rate to several causes -- from the city's crime prevention board to taxpayers funding 100 new police officers through a Local Option Sales Tax, and the rise of numerous neighborhood organizations that help fight crime.
"That leads directly to the tremendous effort of our law enforcement officers, who are doing the hard work in the trenches every day," Tomlinson said. "And I think you can't leave out the effect we're finally getting to see from the crime prevention board and office, and all the work of the community organizations it partners with."
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Police Chief Ricky Boren said having more feet on the street has helped reduce police response times, but he gives most of the credit to private citizens joining neighborhood watch groups and keeping an eye on their neighbors' houses and property.
"We're seeing more and more neighborhood and neighbor interest in what's happening next door," Boren said. "They're giving us a break in that they're calling us a lot quick, and we're arriving there faster as a result of that. They deserve most of the credit. It's just having people taking care of people gives us the most advantage in catching these folks."
The crimes tracked in the crime statistics include homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft.
There have been 23 rapes so far this year, compared to an average of 33. Robberies are down from an average of 375 to 304 this year. Aggravated assaults are down from 411 to 376. Burglaries are down from 2,323 to 1,919. Larcenies have dropped from 6,500 to 5,658 and motor vehicle thefts are down from a six-year average of 995 to 616.
The overall number of crimes in these categories is down from a six-year average of 10,652 to 8,913 -- a decrease of 16.3 percent.
From 2007-2009, the overall crime rate was in the 15,000s, but it dropped to 14,225 in 2010 and 13,185 in 2011. If the current trend continues, Columbus could end the year with 12,041 crimes in the listed categories.
Tomlinson said more ideas are on the horizon to continue the trend. Columbus Council approved $2.5 million last year to install a computerized record-keeping system for the police department, for example.
"We've still got a lot of work to do, goodness knows, but at least we're headed in the right direction," she said.