Columbus sets grim record

Published 11:18 am Wednesday, December 27, 2017

COLUMBUS (AP) — Ohio’s capital city set a grim record Tuesday with its 140th homicide this year, passing the previous high of 139 logged in 1991.

Columbus’ 2017 tally tied and then passed that mark with the deaths of a 57-year-old woman found with signs of trauma in a home on Monday and a 37-year-old man shot through a door to his apartment in a case reported early Tuesday. Police said they were awaiting an autopsy to determine whether the death of a woman found with serious head injuries in the rear of a property also is ruled a homicide.

The city’s homicide count is up from 106 last year and 96 the year before. This year’s list includes one victim who died from injuries from a 2014 shooting.

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Sgt. Dave Sicilian, of the police division’s homicide unit, said the tallying isn’t as important as the lives lost, the families affected and the actions that can be taken to prevent further deaths.

“The first homicide is just as important as the last homicide, and so it’s extremely vital that we don’t lose that focus,” he said. “It’s really not about the number.”

Columbus’ overall homicide rate is actually down from 1991 because of the city’s population growth. Columbus is now the country’s 14th largest city, with about 860,000 residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures from last year.

Sicilian urged the city’s residents to come forward if they see circumstances that might lead to violence. Reporting lower-level crimes such as thefts, property damage and illegal use of weapons can give police a chance to intervene before those situations escalate into deadly encounters, he said.

Police Chief Kim Jacobs had called for peace and action to address the increase in slayings. She has attributed the increase to more illegal guns on the street, the effects of the opioid epidemic, more shots being fired during crimes and people solving arguments with guns instead of less lethal methods.