COLUMBUS, Ga. -
The mayor says crime is down in Columbus after releasing the end of the year numbers, but some are questioning how the statistics have been disclosed.
Mayor Tomlinson posted the end-of-the-year crime statistics "exclusively" to “The Neighborhood Watchers” Facebook page. The mayor, who is running for re-election said she usually releases the information quarterly and has the authority to do so because she's head of public safety.
“I think that's actually a very normal course, I'm under the charter, I'm considered the spokesperson for the city, so I would be the one to speak out and speak on issues of concern,” says Tomlinson.
Media outlets usually get the data in an email from the police department and an officer there said he was ordered to hold that email until the mayor could release the data. Tomlinson says this wasn't done for a political reason, but her opponent Colin Martin says he wants to see more transparency from the local police department and said they should be the ones releasing the numbers.
“I don't have to be the conduit of all information, not everything has to come through me. I have no problem with the police department having a spokesperson,” says Martin.
Tomlinson usually speaks on behalf of the police department. Police Chief Ricky Boren rarely grants interviews. Mayor Tomlinson says one of the reasons is because members of the police department are cautious and sometimes not comfortable, but Colin martin says he wants to change this. He says he doesn't think it's a matter of comfort, he points out that at one time Boren was spokesman for the department before he was chief.
"People need to see the police, in the media, in their neighborhoods, the more visible they are, the safer those families will feel," says Martin. "People don't feel safe in their homes, people need to find out why, we need to address that issue, and it’s a matter of political leadership,” says Martin.
However, Tomlinson says people are going to complain about crime no matter what the numbers say. She says people spoke out about high levels of crime in 2012 when the crime rate was the lowest it’s been since 2003.
“It was dramatically lower,” said Tomlinson. “Yet I remember everywhere I went, people talked about crime was high and crime out of control.”
Martin says Tomlinson's priorities are off, saying she's more concerned about developing the city. He says if elected, when he gives his state of the city address, he'll address crime, which Tomlinson did not. The mayor says she does want to improve how crime is reported. She says she is working with the police department on a crime map which will be available to the public so you can see what crime trends are occurring in certain areas. The mayor says this mapping software should be up and running in about 6 months.
The only crime mapping the city has now is from the local paper, the Ledger-Enquirer, but it does not include every crime that occurs. Columbus police say they report data monthly to the crime-mapping website SpotCrime.com, but there's no crimes listed on the website. A representative from Spotcrime.com says they've been receiving the information, but were not aware they weren't showing up. The spokesperson says they are working to fix the issue.