Columbus mayor wins approval for new crime office

Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington's plan for an Office of Crime Prevention moved a step closer Tuesday with Columbus Council agreeing to fund the program with $931,859 this fiscal year.

The money is part of the city's recommended $234.1 million budget for fiscal 2010 which starts July 1.

During a Budget Review Committee session in council chambers, Wetherington presented a preliminary report for the new office that will focus on recreation, education, employment, drug and alcohol abuse prevention and treatment and community policing.

The mayor said community policing will play a big role in reducing crime. Using money from the Local Option Sales Tax approved by voters last year, Wetherington said adding 100 police officers on the streets will allow Police Chief Ricky Boren to increase beats from 26 to 36. “The officer is going to get to know people,” the mayor said. “It’s going to take some time. In the past, they haven’t had time.”

From reporting pot holes and other problems in neighborhoods, Wetherington said the officer riding a beat will be the eyes and ears for residents and business owners in a given area. “They are going to take an interest in their well being.”

The office will be coordinated by a paid director. Before a penny is spent, Wetherington said he would return to the 10-member council for approval.