May 25, 2022 - News

Columbus beefing up summer security at city parks

Families enjoying a splash park.

Families enjoying the Scioto Mile Fountain, part of Bicentennial Park in Columbus. Photo: Brooke LaValley/Imagn Content Services

Columbus is investing in new security systems and asking police officers to work extra weekend shifts in an effort to keep local parks safe this summer.

State of play: The moves come as the city deals with competing challenges — curbing an increase in violent crime with a department its chief says is understaffed.

  • All while the public is expected to be more active than usual this summer.

Threat level: The extra security comes in response to a string of violence reported in parks over the past two months.

  • City Council also cited earlier "high profile" incidents, like when a teenager was killed and others were injured last May in a shooting at Bicentennial Park.

Driving the news: The Council approved a package this week for up to 40 cops to work voluntary overtime shifts at nearly two dozen parks, plus $500,000 to rent temporary lights and security systems.

Yes, but: An offer of double pay is needed to incentivize officers in the short-staffed Columbus Division of Police to step up, chief Elaine Bryant told councilmembers.

  • The police department is short about 100 officers because so many took buyouts offered by the city and will begin leaving this month.
  • Columbus is hiring new officers, but the recruits won't be in place by the summer.

What they're saying: "These are not just our parks, these are our streets, these are our communities," councilmember Nick Bankston said in approving the funding. "We need our neighbors and residents once again to engage with each other."

  • "Someone very wise told me recently, 'we have to learn to be neighbors again,'" fellow councilmember Emmanuel Remy said. "I think that this is what this summer is all about."
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