Far East Side man uses crime statistics to keep Columbus residents informed

Jimmy Justice, 79, sends out alerts to more than 8,000 people using data available online for crimes in the areas where homicides are reported.

Jimmy Justice was skeptical when he heard Columbus officials say the homicide rate was up in the city in 2017, yet that other crimes were down.

So the block-watch coordinator in the Blacklick area on the Far East Side took it upon himself to do his own research.

Justice, 79, a retired mail carrier, now sends emailed reports about each homicide within the city of Columbus to more than 8,000 people. He also posts his reports to social media sites such as NextDoor and includes notes on comparisons to other crimes.

Justice said he determines the closest intersection to a homicide and checks out the aggravated assault and weapons cases reported within 2 miles by all police agencies in that area for the preceding 12 months.

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“There’s a lot more to this than just murders,” he said. “I’m doing it just to bring attention to the fact that there are areas in this town that really and truly have serious problems with crime.”

He said that homicides get the most attention, but assaults, weapons violations and other violent crimes are important to understanding the context of those deaths. The city, Justice said, is not doing all it could to reduce crime.

“The way they’re doing it now is they’re just reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic,” he said.

Justice said he started his efforts as a block-watch coordinator about seven years ago and has been sending out alerts for the last four to five years. The number of people on his email list is now more than 8,000.

He said he isn’t looking for notoriety in his emails and social media postings, but he is hoping to bring more attention and awareness to try and prevent violent crimes.

“The murder is the Super Bowl ads,” he said. “Everything else is the people standing and waiting to get in.”

For a homicide that occurred on Jan. 11 on Loretta Avenue, Justice compiled statistics showing that 24 homicides had occurred within 2 miles of the nearest intersection in the previous year. There also had been nearly 2,000 thefts, 209 weapons violations and more than 1,000 burglaries from vehicles.

“In 2018, there were 1,144 aggravated assaults in Franklin County,” Justice said his calculations show. “All of that is just bad aim. That’s a blink of an eyelid and it’s not a murder.”

The statistics Justice compiles are neither official nor entirely accurate because they are based on crime data uploaded online by various agencies. Not every agency uploads data in the same time frame, and not all reports are uploaded or available.

One of the websites Justice uses is the same site, www.communitycrimemap.com, that Columbus police crime analysts use in tracking crime trends.

Having people like Justice, community liaison officers and neighborhood block watches sharing information and using the same crime data helps everyone stay up to date and able to communicate effectively, said Sgt. Chantay Boxill, Columbus police spokeswoman.

“Accuracy is the key,” she said. “That’s why we give it to our block watches, so they can give information to each other and then to the community liaison officers.”

Other social media sites and the use of neighborhood-specific crime mapping are key to keeping neighborhoods safer, Boxill said.

It’s a goal that Justice also is working toward.

He said he hopes that having more knowledge will cause more people to become engaged with block watches, either in person or through sites such as NextDoor, and become more vigilant in their own neighborhoods.

“Fighting crime starts at your front door. You don’t know how hard it is to convince people to lock their cars and put the garage door down,” he said. “You can’t leave a gun or electronics on the front seat of your car.”

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@bethany_bruner