January 18, 2012 1:49:00 PM
Columbus Mayor Robert Smith assured residents Tuesday he is doing all he can to curtail crime in The Friendly City.
Smith read a letter addressed to all Columbus residents, and the council spoke to Columbus Police Chief Selvain McQueen about ways to prevent crime.
Smith sent a letter to media outlets responding to "numerous emails and phone calls in the last week concerning the mayor not being concerned with crime in the city," he told the audience.
People in the Columbus Facebook Watch Group mentioned they either would or already have sent emails to Smith about their displeasure with the recent crime in Columbus. But the notion he is ignoring crime or is not concerned is false, Smith said, noting he is working with McQueen and the Columbus Police Department.
"We are committed to working with the chief of police to provide more officers on the streets, equipment, supplies and whatever it takes to make Columbus a safe place to live, work and raise a family," Smith states in the letter.
Some crime-fighting strategies in the letter include working with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office and other local agencies, asking municipal judges to set higher bonds on some felony arrests, increasing foot patrol and community policing and revamping and creating new neighborhood watch programs.
Afterward, McQueen spoke to the audience and council about increased foot patrol in downtown Columbus and "all available resources going to the Patrol Division" to help combat criminal activity. The chief said police need residents of Columbus to help fight crime and it starts with reporting criminal activity.
Ward 6 Councilman Bill Gavin asked McQueen if there was any way the council could help. McQueen abruptly responded with, "Some more personnel, sir." The department has a staff of 74 people budgeted but needs more, he added.
Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box gave kudos to Lynn Nordquist and others for starting the Columbus Facebook Watch Group, a social media initiative with posts informing other members of suspicious activity. The invitation-only group has more than 3,000 members.
Ward 5 residents who are members of a Northside Columbus Neighborhood Watch Group spoke to the council and expressed appreciation to Ward 5 Councilman Kabir Karriem, McQueen and other city officials along with their own efforts in communicating with one another about things they see or hear. This includes "keeping in touch every day for one year with each other," said Cindy Rood, group chairwoman.
"If anybody comes to my house peddling, then I will let everybody know."
The group has complained about peddlers for a few months and even talked about putting up signs to prevent people without licenses from claiming to have a lawn business, per a city ordinance.
"We realize we're only a small part of your responsibility. We're not trying to complain and gripe," Rood said. "We're just trying to show you that we're being proactive in our community."
McQueen hosted a general assembly prior to the council meeting involving all police department personnel, McQueen said. He met with supervisors afterward.
"We do have some that are kind of slacking right now," McQueen said, "and they will have to step up their game or find another place to work."
In the general assembly, which some residents and local media attended, McQueen said the gap between the department and other local agencies is closing. And police continue to investigate three unsolved shooting deaths.
Assistant Chief Joe Johnson spoke to officers and staff and called the department a family that everyone could turn to in tough times.
New Light and Water board member
The Columbus City Council unanimously appointed Andrew Colom as the new Columbus Light and Water board member.
Colom, a Columbus filmmaker and writer, received the appointment after Ward 1 Councilman Gene Taylor made the motion and Ward 2 Councilman Joseph Mickens made the second.
However, Colom was not the first person nominated. Ward 4 Councilman Fred Stewart moved to nominate Jessie Davis Koonce, and Karriem seconded the motion. But only Stewart and Karriem voted in favor.
Five additional applicants included Rowena S. Worshiam, Wesley Platt, Clifford Reynolds, Alfred Brandon and Clyde McElrath.
Jabari Edwards resigned from the board effective Dec. 31, and Colom will fill the remainder of the term, which ends June 30, 2013. Edwards was board president. The board in December voted to make David Shelton the president.
Each month, the five commissioners are paid $300, as determined by the City Council, and receive about $450 for individual health insurance. The board president is paid $25 more per month.
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