Axios Columbus

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Happy Thursday! Anyone still going on their New Year's resolutions?

  • Yeah … us neither.

😎 Today's weather: Sunny, high of 76.

Situational awareness: Columbus local Lauren Blauvelt, executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, is featured on Time magazine's Most Influential People of 2024 list.

  • She was recognized for her work in support of Issue 1, the constitutional amendment passed by voters last year enshrining abortion rights statewide.

Today's newsletter is 941 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: 📉 Columbus homicides are declining

Mothers of Murdered Columbus Children, seen marching downtown in 2021, is spearheading an initiative to keep the city homicide count under 100 this year. Photo: Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Homicides in Columbus are down 58% so far in 2024 compared to the same period last year, one of the largest drops of any major U.S. city with publicly available data.

Why it matters: This is a major reversal from the past few years, when Columbus suffered from record rates of violent crime.

State of play: Homicides surged during the pandemic, with a record 175 killings reported in 2020 and over 200 in 2021.

By the numbers: The Columbus Division of Police recorded 22 murders this year through April 15, per data shared with Axios, the lowest year-to-date total in at least eight years.

  • This is far below 2021 (61 by April 15) and 2023 (52).
  • Seventeen of the 22 homicide victims this year were Black men, nearly all of whom were killed with firearms.

What they're saying: Deputy Chief Smith Weir, who leads the criminal investigations subdivision, told Axios he and other police leaders review these numbers every day, looking for trend lines.

  • Weir is glad to see noticeable improvement so far this year.

Yes, but: "This is certainly not a victory lap," he said, adding this is just one quarter's worth of data.

  • And the positive momentum does not diminish the mourning of 22 people killed, Weir acknowledged.

Between the lines: Crime rates are impacted by so many different variables and no one aspect is driving the recent decline, Weir continued.

  • He said detectives are undergoing more intensive training on solving homicides, which can get repeat criminals off the streets and hopefully prevent some future killings.
  • Weir also credited the community for "stepping up," especially the group Mothers of Murdered Columbus Children.

Zoom in: The group has promoted Operation Under Triple Digits, a citywide initiative to keep this year's homicide count under 100.

  • Columbus hasn't accomplished that in years, but is so far on pace.

The big picture: Our local decline comes as the U.S. is on track to see one of the lowest levels of violent crime and homicides since President Obama was in office.

  • Murders declined by 20% on average across 214 cities during the first three months of 2024 compared to the same period last year, according to AH Datalytics, a criminal justice consulting firm.

The last word: Weir said the police department will be adding security at parks starting later this spring, as it has done in previous years.

  • The goal is to make this year's downward homicide trend a new normal.
  • "Our work is not done. We've still got more work to do."

2. 👩 Chart du jour: Moms are getting older

Share of Ohio babies born to mothers in select age&nbspgroups
Data: CDC Wonder; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Almost 50% of babies in Ohio were born to mothers aged 30 or older last year, according to provisional CDC data.

Why it matters: 35 has transformed from the start of what physicians once called "geriatric pregnancies" to potentially a maternal-age sweet spot.

  • Meanwhile, the number of teenage pregnancies has plummeted to 4%.

The intrigue: Pregnancy risks do increase with age. But the effects are much more pronounced after age 40, compared to 35.

  • On the other hand, some research suggests that being 35+ and pregnant could lead to better brainpower after menopause and a smaller gender wage gap.

Go deeper: Pregnancy at age 35 can have benefits

3. Nutshells: Your local news roundup

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

💵 Columbus taxpayers are funding a public relations campaign in support of Mayor Andrew Ginther's housing strategy, which includes over $260,000 to a private PR firm. (Dispatch)

🗳 Mark Sigrist won the Ohio House of Representatives' 10th District (Grove City and southern Columbus) Democratic primary by just 20 votes, per a recount. (WOSU)

⚽ Columbus Crew head coach Wilfried Nancy has agreed to a contract extension with the team, though the exact details are not yet announced. (Crew)

🌮 Blue Agave opened a second Mexican restaurant location in Gahanna this week. (WCMH-TV)

4. 😈 Throwback Thursday: A century of counterfeits

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

This may come as a shock, but Columbus has had a lot of fraudsters and con artists living here over the years.

Flashback: Counterfeit money has floated around Ohio since the early days of our state, old newspaper clippings show.

  • On Christmas Day 1903, a man was arrested in Columbus trying to pay his saloon tab with a fake $50 bill.
  • In 1965, an employee of a local print shop made 1,500 fake $5 bills without his bosses finding out, but was caught by the Secret Service.

The intrigue: Our city has proven adept at swindling more than just money.

  • The state automobile department was already dealing with counterfeit vehicle tags back in 1911.
  • "It's a little bit difficult to understand why people who own property enough to afford an automobile should attempt to cheat the state out of the license fee," one registrar complained.

Officials later investigated counterfeit gas rations during World War II, truck decals in 1955 and Ohio Turnpike bonds in 1961.

  • A fake stamp operation was uncovered in 1976, involving the illegal printing of over 1,000 Liberty Bell edition 13-cent stamps.

5. 🎃 Tyler's new license plate

The Circleville Pumpkin Show license plate. Photo: Tyler Buchanan/Axios

👋 Tyler here. The voters have spoken — I will be rocking the Circleville Pumpkin Show license plate for the next 12 months.

State of play: My license plates have been decided via social media poll since 2021.

  • Past winners include Cat Friendly, Ohio Beef and Ohio Bullfrog.
  • It costs a little extra to get these personalized plates, but the proceeds go to organizations tied to their respective causes.

Zoom in: This is one of the newest plates in Ohio, first issued two years ago in honor of the famous squash-themed festival.

  • The event dates back to 1903 and attracts hundreds of thousands of attendees per year.

What's next: The 117th Circleville Pumpkin Show will take place Oct. 16-19.

This newsletter was edited by Lindsey Erdody and copy edited by Kate Sommers-Dawes and Anjelica Tan.

Our picks:

😇 Tyler only buys stamps via legal means, he swears.

👶 Alissa is on maternity leave.