A day after a fatal shooting there, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and other city officials met with community leaders in the Short North on Thursday to highlight lower homicide and violent crime rates this year compared to 2021.
Ginther, alongside other public safety officials, met at Stonewall Columbus with Short North community leaders in what appeared to be a bid to assuage fears on the heels of a Wednesday fatal shooting and several other recent incidents of gun violence in the neighborhood in less than two months.
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Betsy Pandora, executive director of the Short North Alliance, said during the press conference she was alarmed by the frequency with which fights have become gunfights, especially in the Short North.
Late last month, five people were injured in shootings over a two-week period in the neighborhood, which online calls itself "The Art and Soul of Columbus" with its arts, culture, restaurant shopping and nightlife.
"Gun violence is a pervasive epidemic, one that requires action and collaboration from all of us who are invested in making our city and its neighborhoods a safe place to live, work and play," Pandora said.
While Ginther said the city is facing many public safety issues, including reckless ATV and dirt bike operation, gun violence stands out as a priority for the city.
"The deadly and devastating scourge of gun violence stands apart (from other issues) in size, scale, complexity," Ginther said. "Its damage to our community is evident by the headlines and heartbreak we see on so many days. It must be stopped."
Ginther pointed to several initiatives to reduce gun violence, including declaring gun violence a public health crisis in the city and working with the Columbus Department of Health, community partners and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to remove guns from the streets.
Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant said the initiatives to reduce gun violence have helped reduce homicides, which are down around 35% from this point in 2021. Columbus had 77 homicides as of Friday mid-afternoon; there were already 114 homicides at this time in 2021, the second consecutive record year of homicides with a total of 205 by year's end.
About eight hours after the press conference, 40-year-old Tyreece Jefferson, of the Northeast Side, was killed after a fight inside the Avion Bar and Grill in Milo-Grogan. No suspects have been publicly identified in his killing.
"Let it be known that if you commit a homicide in our city, we along with the community will not rest until our victims get justice," Bryant said.
Columbus police have removed 1,900 guns from the streets this year. In a late June update, police said they had recovered a total 1,500 firearms in 2022.
Bryant said the police also have seen success in operations to add cameras and increase patrols in city parks, and another operation to use social media to find people wanted for violent felonies.
Ginther said the city is also looking to adopt ordinances to address public safety concerns in areas like Short North that would adopt stricter noise controls and changes to mobile food vendors.
Council member Emmanuel Remy, who heads the council's Public Safety Committee, said that loitering near food stands has been a source of violence and that City Council was "excited" to take up the proposed legislation.
Pandora also said the Short North Alliance was introducing a pilot program with COTA, Lyft and Uber that creates designated zones for rideshare users visiting the Short North to be safely dropped off and picked up.
Cole Behrens is a reporter at The Columbus Dispatch covering public safety and breaking news. You can reach him at CBehrens@dispatch.com or find him on Twitter at @Colebehr_report.
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus says new safety initiatives driving violent crime reduction