Chris Clapp strapped himself into his Columbus Police Department patrol car, a black-and-white Dodge Charger, and revved up the engine. He cruised east on Second Street until an abandoned vehicle in an abandoned gas station caught his eye, prompting the 14-year veteran of the CPD to stop. A note on the front dash read, “Dead battery. Be back in a little bit.”
Clapp, 40, returned to his vehicle.
“Luckily, it was just broken down and it was just a bad spot to leave it,” he said.
As misting rain covered the Columbus streets Wednesday, Clapp continued to stroll, east on State Street, then north on Marr Road, to provide extra eyes around Columbus East and Clifty Park.
“A day like this is a good day to be proactive,” Clapp said.
That’s the name of the local policing game: Stop crime before it starts. CPD officers are focusing on being proactive rather than reactive, and they have the numbers to prove it.
Through August, the city’s officer-initiated activity surpassed the number of calls received. That, Chief Jason Maddix believes, is a first.
“The numbers tell the story, but the untold part is that we have a police department of dedicated officers who work hard and truly care about the community they serve,” Maddix said. “I couldn’t be more proud of their efforts.”
As of Aug. 31, the CPD had initiated 19,129 contacts with citizens this year, compared to 18,230 incoming calls for service in the same time frame. For those same eight months of 2011, CPD officers made 10,729 calls and received 18,434 calls.
The CPD released its January-through-August stats earlier this month. Numbers have increased in extra patrols, finding open doors, making follow-up contacts, checking on suspicious individuals and traffic stops.
Requests for extra police presence has increased from 2,652 for all of 2011 to 8,879 for the first eight months of this year.
“We have made those extra patrols a priority,” Maddix said. “It’s exactly what we need. It’s people calling us and saying, ‘Hey, I’m seeing this in the neighborhood,’ and we’ll come out. And we’ll continue to come out until there’s no longer a problem.”
On Wednesday, Clapp was assigned to east Columbus. By visiting Clifty Park and East, he was providing extra patrols.
Then he got a call to assist the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s office. Clapp gassed it to the Donner Park area. Officers had stopped a person they believed to be a burglary suspect.
“Usually if you’re going to check on something like that, you’re going to take at least two people,” Clapp said. “So in case something happens, you’ve got a backup officer.”
It turned out that the person stopped wasn’t a burglary suspect, but he did have an outstanding warrant, so he was arrested and taken to Bartholomew County Jail. Clapp said it was another example of being proactive.
“You could see a guy walking down the street, coming out of a house,” he said. “You could ignore him and not do anything. Or you could talk with him and see what’s going on.”
In Wednesday’s case, a simple conversation led to an arrest.
A reorganization of the CPD — resulting in fewer administrative positions and more officers on the street — helped boost the officer-initiated volume and increase the quality of operations, Maddix said. It made more officers available for doing follow-up work, freeing up detectives to focus on larger cases.
“We’re trying to take more of a quantity-over-quality approach,” Maddix said. “It’s not so much just going out here and cranking out a bunch of numbers.”
The CPD reported finding 65 percent more open doors than 2011. In other words, officers are checking businesses’ doors more during off-hours of the night.
Last month, South Central Co., a wholesale distributor of heating and air-conditioning equipment, benefited from the CPD going the extra distance. South Central President Phil Arnold said he could have been “wiped out” because a door was left unlocked.
But CPD Sgt. Dan Meister found the unlocked door and entered, sounding off the alarm. Arnold called dispatch only to find police officers acting in good faith were responsible.
“I’ve got to admit,” Arnold said. “I don’t know how many police departments that take the time to go around and jiggle locks.”
Arnold sent a thank-you card to Maddix.
“This was very refreshing for me,” Arnold said. “I was very pleased with their proactive approach.”
CPD follow-ups are up 42 percent, and checking on suspicious vehicles has increased 26 percent. Traffic stops have increased 14 percent.
“Chief Maddix and his command staff are doing an absolutely outstanding job,” Columbus Mayor Kristen Brown said. “Their leadership has motivated and guided a great group of officers to produce exceptional results for our community.”
Maddix said Columbus’ fight against crime revolves around the drug rings. With proactivity, the first-year chief hopes a faster-pace workforce slows down the illegal activity.
“A lot of our crimes are connected to drugs,” Maddix said. “So our drug-enforcement efforts have increased.”