Violent crimes and property crimes both decreased in Columbus last year.

The number of violent crimes — such as murder, robberies, rapes and aggravated assaults — reported in the city dropped 17 percent in 2016, according to the Columbus Police Department’s upcoming annual report. Last year was the third straight that the number of violent crimes committed in Columbus had dropped, the statistics show.

While no murders were committed within the city last year, the number of violent crime investigations last year included 17 robberies, 15 rapes and two aggravated assaults.

Overall, violent felonies and misdemeanors committed last year were down 59 percent from 2012 levels, the city report states.

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Police Chief Jon Rohde said the drop in violent crime extends a positive trend that he attributes to partnerships his department has worked to build in the community.

Neighborhood watch groups are frequently cited as partners by the department. Additional outreach efforts between Columbus police and the public include the Coffee With a Cop program, which began last March.

Coffee With a Cop, which has sprung up in more than 2,000 U.S. communities since 2011, gives police an opportunity to have face-to-face interaction with community members so officers can better understand and address public-safety needs, Rohde said.

Using the 2015 rates from the FBI, since national rates for 2016 are not yet available, Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop said during his March 10 State of The City address that the city’s property crime rate was 75 percent higher than the national average.

But trends changed dramatically in a year’s time, with the city reporting an 8 percent decrease in property crime from 2015 to 2016, said Rohde, whose officers have been focusing on repeat offenders.

Significant drops in specific property crimes cited in the city report for 2016 include:

Arson, down 14 percent

Burglary, down 26 percent

Thefts, down 5 percent

While those figures may appear encouraging, more recent developments are not.

Auto thefts increase

Reports of 77 thefts from vehicles were filed in Columbus between Dec. 1 and Feb. 21, Columbus Police Department spokesman Lt. Matt Harris said.“We continue to investigate thefts where vehicles were left unlocked and valuables were in plain view,” Columbus Police Department spokesman Lt. Matt Harris said. “We strongly encourage the public to help us lower the property crime rate by removing valuables and locking their vehicles.”

This recent rate of vehicle thefts far exceeds the norm, Harris said.

A significant number of thefts from vehicles has also been reported in Bartholomew County outside of Columbus in the past three to four months, Bartholomew County Sheriff Matt Myers said.

“Our guys on the streets aren’t seeing a decrease in this stuff,” the sheriff said.

Vehicle thefts in areas of Bartholomew County outside Columbus increased 34 percent last year, said Detective Capt. Christopher Roberts of the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department.

Deputies investigated 585 property crimes last year, comparable to 2015 but up 6 percent increase from 2012, Roberts said.

The property crime category with the biggest change last was burglary, which was up 19 percent last year and 52 percent since 2012.

Experiencing crime

Sheryl Nulph, facilitator for the Historic Downtown Neighborhood Alliance in Columbus, was a victim of property crime herself last year.“It’s no longer a matter of ‘if’ someone will steal from me, but ‘when’ — and what will they take,” she said.

Nevertheless, Nulph complimented law enforcement efforts in the city.

“The police in Columbus are amazing,” Nulph said. “They are doing the absolute best they can.”

Since all law enforcement agencies are limited in personnel and resources, some of the responsibility for reducing crime rests with residents, she said.

Everybody needs to stay on guard, keep their homes and vehicles locked and continue reporting any suspicious activity to law enforcement, Nulph said.

“We all occasionally get careless,” the watch group facilitator said. “But if you know something, you have to say something (to police). And a lot of people still aren’t talking.”{div id=”stcpDiv” style=”position: absolute; top: -1999px; left: -1988px;”}theft, embezzlement, receipt of stolen goods{/div} {div id=”stcpDiv” style=”position: absolute; top: -1999px; left: -1988px;”}Non-violent crimes are those crimes that do not involve the use of any force or injury to another person. The seriousness of a non-violent crime is usually measured in terms of economic damage or loss to the victim. _ See more at:{/div}

Pull Quote

“It’s no longer a matter of ‘if’ someone will steal from me, but ‘when’ – and what will they take.”

— Sheryl Nulph, Historic Downtown Neighborhood Alliance

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at or 812-379-5636.