Sunday, July 27, 2003

Columbus shaken by homicides

By Casey Laughman
The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A burst of 10 homicides in the last week has city officials trying to figure out what has caused the recent surge.

All of the homicides appear to be unrelated, police said, except for a triple murder near the Ohio State University campus earlier in the week. The killings pushed the city's homicide total for the year to 67, said police spokesman Sgt. Brent Mull. The total for all of 2002 was 82.

"It was not a good week in Columbus," Mayor Michael Coleman said Saturday. "This is more than disappointment that some people have little respect for life, no matter what you do."

The increase in homicides comes as the city is putting more money toward stopping violent crime, including the recent allocation of half a million dollars to help increase police presence in "hot spots" of crime in the city.

Coleman said the fact that the crimes are unrelated makes them harder to solve, but promised that the city is determined to root out the problem.

"The bad guys, we arrest them, but some of them are like roaches," Coleman said. "Some of them move to another area and we've got to go get them.

"Our goal is to stamp them out like roaches," Coleman said. "We are fed up with the crime and violence in our city."

Mull said that the department has seen a decrease in other crimes, including rape, robbery and burglary.

But he said he couldn't remember a week as violent as the past week has been.

"In a week? That's the first time in 12 years I've ever heard of this many," Mull said.

Coleman emphasized that the city needed help from citizens, including calling in tips to the police department's anonymous tip line.

"We've been standing on the mountaintop screaming, 'Call us; give us the tips,' " Coleman said. "There will be no reason for retribution because nobody will know who you are."

Coleman recently named a 31-member panel to help suggest solutions for the crime problem. The panel includes community and political leaders, law-enforcement officials and school officials.

Coleman said that when violent crime increases, so does the city's resolve to put a stop to it.

"We're coming after these folks, and we're going to do whatever it takes - whatever it takes - to curtail crime and violence in our city," Coleman said.

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