The effectiveness of criticism often relies on how it is received.
On Tuesday, Columbus Police Chief Fred Shelton revealed the city’s plan to curb crime about a month after a series of shootings threatened to undermine confidence in his department.
Shelton met with officials from the state’s Office of Homeland Security two weeks ago at the behest of the Community Crime Prevention Task Force.
CPD’s reaction could have gone one of two ways: It could have been a half-hearted attempt to deflect the criticism through vague solutions and empty platitudes, or it could have been a good-faith effort to respond to the criticism with new strategies and real measures.
We are pleased to report that what we heard Tuesday is the latter.
Those new strategies include setting up a multi-jurisdictional task force made of local, state and federal law enforcement officers who will periodically get together to run operations (addressing drugs or gun violence or whatever) when there are sudden spikes in crime.
CPD will also be aggressive in pursuing grants that will allow the department to secure better surveillance equipment or borrowing equipment from other agencies if grants aren’t available.
The department will also pursue enhanced training opportunities for things like de-escalation techniques, crisis response, disaster response or active shooter training for specific situations, like churches or workplaces.
Among other criticisms of the department was a feeling that residents were kept in the dark about the crime situation.
To address that issue, Shelton said his department would create a crime blotter, a map breaking down when and where crimes are happening. As an example of what that would look like, Shelton provided an example from the Bibb County, Georgia crime blotter, which pinpoints the type of crime and its location on a map, something that helps citizens put crime in our community in a better context.
Shelton said he would also work on strengthening the Neighborhood Watch program by offering training sessions with residents to make sure they understand how the program works.
We believe these measures represent a positive response to criticism. As such, residents are encouraged to play their role in crime prevention, too.
Too often, police involvement in crime comes after the fact: The crime is committed, then police respond.
Certainly, police have a role in crime prevention, but the public’s role cannot be disregarded.
It’s the “see something, say something” idea, one we hope citizens will embrace.
We urge residents to carefully consider these new strategies and embrace their roles in making our neighborhoods safer from crime, Join your Neighborhood Watch program. If you don’t have one, contact the CPD about how to start one.
Be alert and aware. If something seems suspicious, call the police department.
The CPD has responded positively. We expect nothing less from our citizens.