COLUMBUS, Ohio — As the school year ends for students in the Columbus City Schools, Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced the city’s summer safety plan Thursday afternoon.
Ginther was joined by Assistant Police Chief LaShanna Potts and Director of Recreation and Parks Department Bernita Reese at Nelson Park where they announced the reemergence of “Operation Moonlight.” Now in its second year, the operation will add an additional 40 officers in high-visibility areas during key hours in the summer.
Ginther said the officers will not be pulled from their assigned shifts and duties but will sign up for these summer shifts through voluntary overtime. The cost commitment of the operation is $2 million as compared to last year’s $1.6 million.
“There’s a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks in our community: festivals, concerts, Pride, parades, Boom, camps, pools and more,” said Ginther. “Know that we are committed to doing all that we can to ensure a safe and successful summer – particularly for our children, teens and youth. That is why we are, once again, making unprecedented investments in summer programming to provide fun and engagement through structure and stability.”
City leaders say “Operation Moonlight” joins two other initiatives, “Operation Burnout,” and “Safe Streets,” aimed at bolstering policing.
“Operation Burnout” targets the reckless operation of vehicles and takeover events in the city, along with related criminal activity. Recently there were two cases of street takeovers that involved shots being fired. Including one where Columbus police officers were shot at while responding to a street takeover on Indianola Avenue on April 29. Police said 16 suspects were involved in overrunning a gas station on Johnstown Road about an hour later.
Since “Operation Burnout” was rolled out last month, officers have been focusing their efforts on several key areas of the city. In the last two weekends, police have focused the operation on the Short North Arts District which resulted in 10 felony arrests and 45 misdemeanor arrests/summons, seven guns being recovered, seized drugs and 202 vehicles being impounded.
“We are pleased with these results because those numbers are down week over week. That means the community heard and heeded our warnings: that violent, disruptive behavior of any kind will not be tolerated,” said Potts. “But more importantly, we saw two weekends in a row without violence in one of our most densely packed, heavily visited neighborhoods. Our goal is not arrests and citations: it is safety. And by that measure, ‘Operation Burnout’ has been an unqualified success.”
The city plans to scale back parking restrictions starting this weekend to allow street parking along the southbound lanes of High Street between Goodale and Fifth Avenue, though street parking along the northbound lanes of High Street will still not be permitted after 10 p.m.
The “Safe Streets” program consists of bike officers who will work together across the city in every zone. The teams will be engaging the community and conducting enforcement activities, according to the city.
Officers made 107 felony arrests and seized 96 firearms during last year’s Safe Streets program.
The Columbus Division of Police plans to add 29 new officers to this project.
Along with the increase of security in the city, the city rolled out new funding for kids’ summer programming.
Last month, the city council approved $20.1 million, including $9 million going to more than 90 community organizations.
Some of those summer programs are focused on violence prevention, training and employment opportunities and academic enrichment. They are designed to help keep young people from being involved in crimes, keep them engaged and learn and build upon new skills.
Ginther asked for the continued vigilance of parents and guardians as kids enter their summer break. According to city code, officers can enforce curfew for teens between the ages of 13 and 17, who need to be off the streets from midnight to 4:30 a.m.