Police Luncheon notes – April 25, 2013
9 officers 27 residents
Director Shiloh Todorov welcomed everyone and noted that we gather every last Thursday for nine years now, led by Jerry Glick. She asked for crowd's appreciation of Jerry's effort and a round of applause.
Nick Blannin – Stewart and Jaeger resident:
Witnessed assault at bus stop near his house, as well as a dog fight where owner didn't rush over to stop it, then a street fight in front of his house that appeared to have been planned – a car pulled up with two females and the fight persisted, also has seen marijuana use near basketball courts, which is sometimes brazen. Worries Nick because of the playground nearby, the general welcome feeling of the park, safety of neighbors.
Many people have followed up on the email Nick initially sent to Director Shiloh Todorov. More officers have been noted in the park lately.
Officer Polta had followed up with instructions for Nick on what to do if he witnessed more problems. Advice includes being watchful and calling in anything suspicious. Non-emergency number is 645-4545. Nick called 911 and felt dispatcher wasn't entirely helpful.
Officers confirm that 911 is fine for an active fight as Nick portrays. Also, officers need to have reports to see pattern in order to address. In this incident, kids broke up their own fight and went away laughing.
Commander confirms resident reports are NOT a bother police. No report makes prosecution tough.
Gang unit is seeing, in general lately, that sometimes fights are staged and filmed. The hitting is real, but the laughing is because it is staged. A call to police allows charges to follow.
No reason to think Schiller reports so far are gang-related, but South Side in general is known as a Bloods territory. Gangs are NOT overrunning German Village – they tend to be further east. But, again, ALWAYS CALL if you see something suspicious and 911 is fine.
Officer says he hasn't seen any evidence of gangs at Schiller basketball courts, but the last few years have seen an intensity of game interaction building at basketball courts among many kinds of groups and younger groups.
Several people have reported to Police Luncheon coordinator Jerry Glick about dog off-leash incidents. No one could be at meeting today (other than Nick's report of a dog fight above). These incidents, too, must be reported to police in order to note the trend or to prosecute.
No leash laws in Columbus, but what's the requirement for control?
"Reasonable control" is a state law. When in park or anywhere else, you can report directly to animal control 525-DOGS. If you report to police line instead, there isn't usually a charge filed but the report goes through police to animal control for response.
Rec & Parks Director Alan McKnight quotes city law: owner must maintain direct control. Interpretation has been: if dog will sit/stay on command regardless of circumstances in the park. If the dog can be distracted by a crowd or another animal – that's not control. City's direction right now is to help owners understand that MOST dogs are not under true direct voice control. Question for city is how to enforce. City consider education pamphlets and signs in parks to help people understand the requirement and then follow up with enforcement.
Metro Parks is a county-wide system with 14 parks and they have a leash law except in designated areas. Metro Parks doesn't get Animal Control or police backup.
Resident Janet Druen asks what's plan for creating a leash law. Director McKnight says there's no current plan to enact a leash law. He doesn't believe City Council is interested. Janet asks what consequence is under current law – officers say owner can be cited for minor misdemeanor. Police or Animal Control have to physically observe the attack/fight to press a charge.
Jerry says a neighbor reports that city can send letter to owner requiring proof of rabies shots. Vets will treat dogs but most won't report.
Commander suggests, in heat of moment, to call 525-DOGS and 911 to report any dog attack or fight.
Animal Control reports that if a dog attacks a person or animal, officer will report to scene and go to owner's house and write tickets as allowable. Charge can't be filed unless officer witnesses attack, but witness or victim can take (and may be encouraged to take) private action against dog owner.
Dog laws in Ohio changed a year ago related to confinement and attacks. Nuisance dogs are dogs approaching in an aggressive manner. Nuisance dog owners get three charges before the dog becomes a dangerous dog, which then requires confinement and special tags.
Jerry says many dogs are driven in from around city – so getting owner's name is tougher, but what about license plate number?
McKnight says part of education should be off-leash dog parks nearby, such as Audubon nearest to GV.
Janet asks if a regular dog patrol might help – like any heightened enforcement presence – to help dog owners start to find off-leash dog parks. Likely 400K dogs in Franklin Co., Animal Control reports. There have been official swings through parks to educate – usually around license-renewal time Dec. 1-Jan. 31. Animal Control is complaint driven and with the number of officers over whole county means patrol time is very thin going call to call.
Trustee Jeff McNealey reports to charging statues in city – including not to "run large on any property not his own." Also "prima facie evidence dog is not under direct control" if it attacks or makes a nuisance for others under city code.
Animal Control can only enforce state law. Police can enforce city law.
McKnight said other city officials see current language is very clear. He notes that signage, as suggested for leash education, has worked to mark an uptick in dog owners cleaning up after their pet since city posted those signs.
Jerry says he's talked to many cities have enforceable leash laws. Another neighbor seconds and notes she is a new resident and is appalled there is no dog leash law in a city this size.
Neighbor asks what rights resident has to defend him/herself against a dog attack. Can't be charged criminally, but private charges may be filed both ways.
Neighbor notes education piece is important, but law change makes it clearer.
Commander notes that criminal code sometimes is fuzzy to officers and she will undertake education of her officers on actual voice control and enforcement ability for officers. Commander would support a few weeks of education followed by more strict enforcement.
McKnight notes that Schiller is not unique in Columbus.
City doesn't want to squash social activity of dogs and dog owners.
Commander doesn't want to set false expectation that dog leash enforcement is going to constant priority of officers. Have her commitment that police will work with Rec & Parks about educating officers, educating the public and then enforcement – as priorities allow.
Commander says that vast majority of pet owners don't realize what it's like for the non-pet people or the people who are afraid or have been threatened. Wants to set expectation that education will help cooperation of dog owners and non-dog owners. Officers want to educate while representing interests of both sides.
Resident asks whether there are records of dog attacks. Animal Control says they keep track, but Rec & Parks don't – they get very few formal complaints (only anecdotes). Police said 22 is code for dog but that's anything from barking dog to dog bite. Plus, most are not reported. Report run by police just yesterday shows NO REPORTs for Schiller. So if you want action, you must report.
Animal Control said Jan. 1 to today 13 attacks on humans in 43206-07 ZIPs.
Resident said he walks constantly and sees nice people on basketball courts and nice dogs. Don't let this talk overwhelm the nice park Schiller is. Children's area under constant use.
McKnight said Schiller is envy of community groups across Columbus. We need to be proactive, but Schiller's issues are a nice set of problems compared against many other city parks.
Resident suggests signage especially at entrance to playground to keep dog on leash.
Jerry says volunteers regularly ask people to leash their dogs in Frank Fetch Park.
Commander suggests fenced place for dogs in Schiller. McKnight says there's hesitation to set aside a section of park for ONE use. Commander suggest NYC-style time zones for parks. Janet Druen says she's been working on a leash law since 1980 – not just for parks but entire city. She's disappointed Council won't take action. Commander suggests a compromise such as those she brings up.
Trustee Jeff McNealey presented on scrap metal law. He's been working for eight years on scrap-metal theft laws. Ohio has just adopted.
- It's a Homeland Security threat.
- It's a crime of opportunity that often fund addictions and vices. Use yards as a bank and the scrap is impossible to track often.
- Copper prices have risen dramatically since 2005 driven by world market especially in Southeast Asia.
- Thieves raid vacant homes and anything in yards for scrap.
- Key in approach from industry standpoint in conjunction with Columbus police is to focus on scrap yards. Think most going to yards is less than 1% stolen. Columbus has one detective dedicated to scrap theft.
- Tough to recognize your missing item once it is at scrap yard.
- Jan. 1, 2013 all yards in Ohio must register. Prior, no one knew how many yards there were. "Yards" can be a pickup truck and now must be registered, too. Now 327 are registered but guess is there are 1,000 in state. Look for certificate at register to see if yard is registered.
- Scrap metal theft is often discovered long after the incident. Also, difficult to differentiate metal from metal once at scrap yard.
- Security systems for gutters are available.
- New state system alerts police reports of scrap theft to scrap yard electronic records.
- New laws should help catch scrap thieves because of focus on retail/peddler as gateway to capture info about scrap sellers.
- By Jan. 1, 2014, electronic reporting system coming to all cruisers so police can look at transactions of scrap retailers. Keeps sellers from moving a piece from yard to yard trying to sell it. Seller can be tracked by license number and driver's license info yard to yard and list of metal collected from seller.
- Property owners should mark their metal, develop a rapport with police and scrap dealers, report thefts immediately and agree to prosecute.