Columbus crime statistics for the first three months of this year as compared to the first quarter of 2014 show decreases only in homicide, burglary and auto theft, according to numbers announced Wednesday.
As the Ledger-Enquirer reported April 11, the city had only two homicides from January through March — the year’s third slaying occurred Tuesday — as compared to five for the first quarter of last year.
“I’m most pleased to see the dramatic reduction in homicides so far this year,” Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, the city’s public safety director, said Monday. “The tragic murder we had yesterday was the first in 110 days. Among our multi-faceted efforts, we have partnered with many community organizations to combat violence, particularly domestic violence, which claimed ten lives last year. We appear to have made some headway there."
Burglaries showed a slight decrease from 649 in 2014’s first quarter to 636 this year, and motor vehicle theft had a more significant decline of 252 this year from 304.
Both robberies and larcenies increased.
Columbus recorded 118 robberies as compared to 87 last year, and larceny — a broad category that includes thefts other than automobiles — went from 1,682 last year to 1,768.
Two types of violent crime, aggravated assault and rape, showed no change. Rapes held at 13 and aggravated assaults at 110.
Overall, the city’s “Part I” crimes that include all those listed above increased, but only by 49, from 2,849 last year to 2,898.
Tomlinson noted the quarterly statistics showed decreases comparing the first quarter of 2015 to the last quarter of 2014: The city recorded 37 fewer robberies; 500 fewer burglaries; 54 fewer auto thefts; and 444 fewer larcenies.
The decrease in burglaries is particularly good news, as past year-end totals show burglary had been in decline before spiking, with 3,452 in 2010; 3,339 in 2011; 2,712 in 2012; 3,355 in 2013; and 3,711 in 2014.
But with rare exceptions, crime in Columbus typically drops during the first few months of each year, then increases as the weather warms and residents spend more time outside.
Said Tomlinson: “We are pleased to see improvement over last quarter. We appear to have made some improvements over this same quarter last year, as well. We look forward to improving on these trends in all seven Part-1 crime categories. Regardless of the numbers, we still say one crime is too many and in that light we have a long way to go.”
Comparing other statistics over the past five years, aggravated assault in the first quarter has shown some decline, though not a remarkable drop: Columbus had 126 in 2010; 113 in 2011; 122 in 2012; and 115 in 2013.
The year-end totals for aggravated assault over those years are 476 in 2010; 464 in 2011; 528 in 2012; 485 in 2013; and 520 in 2014.
Crime was expected to drop as the Columbus Police Department got a boost in personnel from a sales tax voters passed in 2008, with 70 percent of the revenue devoted to public safety. The police force was to add 100 more officers, going from 388 to 488.
More officers have been added, but with turnover the force typically averages around 468, and currently has 26 vacancies, said Assistant Police Chief Lem Miller.
“Obviously we would like to have a full contingent of officers,” he said, noting shortages require constantly shifting personnel to fill gaps. The top priority is answering 911 calls, most of which require some follow up. When the department needs more officers for that, it must deplete specialized units that target specific types of crime.
Miller said three detectives specializing in financial crimes — a growing issue in the age of online transactions and high credit-card use — have been named “Officer of the Month.” At one award ceremony, the sergeant over that unit said he could use three more investigators to handle the case load, Miller said.
Of auto thefts, Miller said police were fortunate in one regard: New vehicles today come with safety features that make them harder to steal, and some have technology that allows them to be tracked through GPS systems.