Friday, April 30, 2010

30 APR 10: Green Cops

When Columbus voters approved the "streets and safety" sales tax, they were promised several new police beats. City parks are being watched. The Riverwalk is being watched. And now we know an overlooked part of town is being watched - even though it's the section most likely to have everyone paying big money for home security systems.

WRBL revealed Thursday night Mayor Jim Wetherington called Police Chief Ricky Boren in late March about radar checks on River Road. That started a chain of events which led to regular police patrols of Green Island Hills -- the neighborhood where the mayor happens to live. Hopefully the security staff at Green Island Country Club didn't feel insulted by this.

Apparently some Columbus Police officers are claiming the mayor ordered the police chief to begin police patrols in his neighborhood. The evening news showed a whiteboard indicating radar checks on River Road should end, with Green Island Hills patrols replacing them. So? The new "greenhorn" officers should be in a fitting location....

But Mayor Jim Wetherington says the speculation is inaccurate. Yes, he called Chief Ricky Boren in March about River Road radar - but it was because five officers were watching drivers. The mayor says that's "not acceptable" anywhere in Columbus. In Atlanta, the limit is triple team coverage - at least for radio traffic reports.

Jim Wetherington seemed stunned by the accusation that he ordered police patrols in Green Island Hills. But the mayor noted he never sees a squad car on patrol in his home neighborhood. Of course, gangs may have spread the word a former police chief lives there.

The mayor says he was unaware his call to the police chief was interpreted to mean an end to traffic watches in one section of Columbus. In other words, he wanted a River Road radar reduction -- but NOT a rancorous run-off from River Road radar.

Mayor Jim Wetherington insists he did NOT ask the police chief for a focused patrol of Green Island Hills. But Chief Ricky Boren says that neighborhood came up in the late March conversation - and apparently it was NOT to begin plans for the mayor's retirement party in December.

The police chief explained he receives requests on a "very routine" basis about increasing patrols in various Columbus neighborhoods. But I'm sure Ricky Boren would admit a request from the mayor is far from routine. It's a bit like a grade-school teacher requesting a student to stop throwing paper wads.

But Chief Ricky Boren admits the mayor had a good point in his March phone call. He says officers don't have to sit still for an hour or two, pointing radar guns toward passing cars on River Road. Of course, some officers might prefer that - especially if Golden Donuts and the CVS Pharmacy at Manchester Expressway could switch places.

The police chief explained River Road can be monitored through "moving radar." I guess that involves special speed-check equipment inside a squad car. The only other thing which comes to mind for "moving radar" is what the meteorologists show on TV every night.

This story about Green Island Hills police patrols left one question in my mind. It turns out that wealthy corner organized a "neighborhood watch" program three years ago - about three months after Jim Wetherington became mayor. He was simply too busy cutting ribbons to spend much time at home.

At least Green Island Hills now has the same kind of police presence that Cusseta Road has. And now I'm even more likely to drive my 16-year-old car through that neighborhood. An officer could stop me to ask why I'm there, before any nosy residents call for him.

Let's try to sort fact from fiction about other Thursday news....

+ The Columbus Chamber of Commerce held an information fair at Fort Knox, Kentucky, for soldiers and families moving to Fort Benning due to base realignment. If you're reading this blog in Fort Knox and wondering why I wasn't there.... well, sometimes my "information" gets under the skin of other people at the fair.

(WRBL reports 80 percent of all home sales in east Alabama these days are to military personnel. Now there's a statistic for keeping criminals on the Columbus side of the river....)

+ Veterans Memorial Middle School held a "reality fair," including local homeland security personnel. Aw, c'mon - this is 2010, not the first season of "COPS." Shouldn't a reality fair include "Real Housewives" from Atlanta? Or at least Tori Spelling?

+ The Georgia General Assembly ended its 2010 session by approving a ban on "texting while driving." Anyone caught checking the Internet while behind the wheel will be fined 150 dollars. So please save some money - and print out our daily blog entries, to read while you drive to work.

(The Georgia legislature also approved a so-called "road kill bill." It would let you keep a bear or deer, if you run over one on the highway. You probably shouldn't report striking a squirrel - because you'll be suspected of erratic driving.)

+ The Southern States Athletic Conference opened its baseball and softball tournaments at South Commons. The closest school to Columbus appears to be Auburn University-Montgomery - but it doesn't sound quite right for fans to stand up and yell, "War Senator!"

+ St. Louis lathered Atlanta 10-4 in National League baseball. Atlanta comes home with a nine-game losing streak - and a few fans wondering if the Bobby Cox retirement party can't be moved up a few months.

+ Instant Message to Louisiana oyster harvesters: Admittedly I don't eat your product. But maybe there's a marketing opportunity here. Talk about how crude oil on oysters will make them slide down your throat more easily.

SCHEDULED THIS WEEKEND: Why would someone write us from Arizona?....

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