Columbus Police Chief Oscar Lewis is at least partly blaming rising crime in the city on biblical prophecy related to the end times.
Lewis, during a press conference he called Wednesday at the Municipal Complex to discuss law enforcement issues, called a Dispatch reporter’s question about the appearance of a rising crime rate “tough,” adding he believes one factor driving the trend is people turning away from God.
“Prophecy is being fulfilled,” Lewis said. “…The end times are here, and things are going to get pretty bad. We’re doing everything that we can to try to combat these things. There are things we can control and things we can’t control.”
At the press conference, Lewis said he’d also like to see what ideas city council candidates, many of whom have said they want to work with the police department to reduce the city’s crime problems, have to offer.
“I just think there are some things that have gone by the wayside as far as people and their faith in God and everything,” he said. “That’s a big part of the problem we’re seeing today.”
The Wednesday press conference touched on a number of subjects, from recruitment to the city’s recently-launched program offering rewards for tips about homicide and armed robbery investigations.
CPD currently has 49 officers, and Lewis said four of them will go to the state police academy for 12 weeks of training this weekend. He said he will recommend hiring two more officers at Tuesday’s Columbus City Council meeting, both of whom are former CPD officers who would be returning to the department.
Lewis said he’d like to reach this year, or at least get close to, the 67-officer force the council has allotted for CPD, but he acknowledged that’s not likely. He said he’s pleased with whatever gains the department makes as it continues its recruitment push.
“Any number helps us out right now,” he said.
In recent months, the city has taken a number of steps to boost officer recruitment and retention efforts, including pay raises for officers and initiating a take-home vehicle program, in addition to the purchase of 10 new vehicles from Missouri.
Lewis said the city has received a few crime tips for its new reward program, but they’ve been for older cases rather than the more recent ones authorities are hoping to solve — namely four shooting deaths from 2016 that still have not yielded arrests.
“Right now, we’re still working hard to solve these homicides,” he said. “We just want family members to know and citizens of Columbus to know things might not move as fast as they want, but don’t misunderstand that — there are things being done and moving behind the scenes. We just ask for patience in that.”
The city council approved the program in December to try to encourage citizens to come forward with information on crimes.
Under the new program, a person providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of someone who has committed murder or manslaughter in the city would be eligible for a $15,000 reward. A person who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of someone who has committed an armed robbery would be eligible for a $5,000 reward.
The program does not guarantee a tipster’s anonymity.
While Lewis said he was thankful for the tips, he noted they’re coming in more slowly than expected.
“It’s slow-going right now, and I guess there are just some issues that people themselves will have to come to grips with,” Lewis said.
2016 and looking ahead
CPD responded to 30,209 reports from E-911 in 2016, Lewis said. He added that doesn’t include officer-initiated responses to incidents that might not have been reported to E-911.
He said officers made 130 felony arrests last year.
For 2017, Oscar said he hopes for the department to strengthen its focus on drugs.
“As everybody knows, most everything is tied to drug use,” he said.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.