Black­lick ob­server keeps own crime stats

The Columbus Dispatch - - Metro&state - By Bethany Bruner The Colum­bus Dis­patch

Jimmy Jus­tice was skep­ti­cal when he heard Colum­bus of­fi­cials say the homi­cide rate was up in the city in 2017, yet that other crimes were down.

So the block-watch co­or­di­na­tor in the Black­lick area on the Far East Side took it upon him­self to do his own re­search.

Jus­tice, 79, a re­tired mail car­rier, now sends emailed re­ports about each homi­cide within the city of Colum­bus to more than 8,000 peo­ple. He also posts his re­ports to so­cial me­dia sites such as Nex­tdoor and in­cludes notes on com­par­isons to other crimes.

Jus­tice said he de­ter­mines the clos­est in­ter­sec­tion to a homi­cide and checks out the ag­gra­vated as­sault and weapons cases re­ported within 2 miles by all po­lice agen­cies in that area for the pre­ced­ing 12 months.

"There's a lot more to this than just mur­ders," he said. "I'm do­ing it just to bring at­ten­tion to the fact that there are ar­eas in this town that re­ally and truly have se­ri­ous prob­lems with crime."

He said that homi­cides get the most at­ten­tion, but as­saults, weapons vi­o­la­tions and other vi­o­lent crimes are im­por­tant to un­der­stand­ing the con­text of those deaths. The city, Jus­tice said, is not do­ing all it could to re­duce crime.

"The way they're do­ing it now is they're just reshuf­fling the deck chairs on the Ti­tanic," he said.

Jus­tice said he started his ef­forts as a block-watch co­or­di­na­tor about seven years ago and has been send­ing out alerts for the last four to five years. The num­ber of peo­ple on his email list is now more than 8,000.

He said he isn't look­ing for no­to­ri­ety in his emails and so­cial me­dia post­ings, but he is hop­ing to bring more at­ten­tion and aware­ness to try and pre­vent vi­o­lent crimes.

"The mur­der is the Su­per Bowl ads," he said. "Ev­ery­thing else is the peo­ple stand­ing and wait­ing to get in."

For a homi­cide that oc­curred on Jan. 11 on Loretta Av­enue, Jus­tice com­piled statis­tics show­ing that 24 homi­cides had oc­curred within 2 miles of the near­est in­ter­sec­tion in the pre­vi­ous year. There also had been nearly 2,000 thefts, 209 weapons vi­o­la­tions and more than 1,000 bur­glar­ies from ve­hi­cles.

"In 2018, there were 1,144 ag­gra­vated as­saults in Franklin County," Jus­tice said his cal­cu­la­tions show. "All of that is just bad aim. That's a blink of an eye­lid and it's not a mur­der."

The statis­tics Jus­tice com­piles are nei­ther of­fi­cial nor en­tirely ac­cu­rate be­cause they are based on crime data up­loaded on­line by var­i­ous agen­cies. Not ev­ery agency up­loads data in the same time frame, and not all re­ports are up­loaded or avail­able.

One of the web­sites Jus­tice uses is the same site, www.com­mu­ni­ty­crimemap. com, that Colum­bus po­lice crime an­a­lysts use in track­ing crime trends.

Hav­ing peo­ple like Jus­tice, com­mu­nity li­ai­son of­fi­cers and neigh­bor­hood block watches shar­ing in­for­ma­tion and us­ing the same crime data helps ev­ery­one stay up to date and able to com­mu­ni­cate ef­fec­tively, said Sgt. Chan­tay Box­ill, Colum­bus po­lice spokes­woman.

"Ac­cu­racy is the key," she said. "That's why we give it to our block watches, so they can give in­for­ma­tion to each other and then to the com­mu­nity li­ai­son of­fi­cers."

Other so­cial me­dia sites and the use of neigh­bor­hood-spe­cific crime map­ping are key to keep­ing neigh­bor­hoods safer, Box­ill said.

It's a goal that Jus­tice also is work­ing toward.

He said he hopes that hav­ing more knowl­edge will cause more peo­ple to be­come en­gaged with block watches, ei­ther in per­son or through sites such as Nex­tdoor, and be­come more vig­i­lant in their own neigh­bor­hoods.

"Fight­ing crime starts at your front door. You don't know how hard it is to con­vince peo­ple to lock their cars and put the garage door down," he said. "You can't leave a gun or elec­tron­ics on the front seat of your car."

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