Long-time Central Ohioans know that the best Mexican restaurant and the coolest auction house are not necessarily in the trendy parts of the big city. Rather, they are in an unassuming suburb in the southwest part of Franklin County.
With a population of approximately 37,000, Grove City ranks as third-largest of the region’s suburbs. It’s a growing community, with a balance of retail establishments, commercial enterprises, and residential areas. Two Interstates and a major roadway pass through city limits, making it attractive for motels, ‘big box’ and ‘chain’ stores—and the negatives that come with them. Service calls have increased, as has credit card fraud, shoplifting, and other crimes of opportunity associated with transient traffic. Statistically, Grove City is not disproportionate in the types or levels of criminal activity for its demographic profile.
The Grove City Division of Police has 61 full-time officers. Captain Steve Robinette recalls that when he joined the department, about 25 years ago, there were only twenty-seven officers. Since then, they’ve added about two per year.
Additionally, the department maintains a Reserve unit of volunteer officers. In cooperation with the Boy Scouts of America, there’s an Explorer program to expose young adults to the career field of law enforcement. Internships are available through Columbus State, Ohio State, and Ohio Dominican; participants work with the various bureaus within the division to gain experience in all areas.
Community involvement is a major component of their mission. There is a ‘ride-along’ program that allows citizens to spend a few hours in the front seat of a patrol car. Grove City has an active Blockwatch program, which, although not specifically a police-sponsored activity, works closely with officers.
Grove City is an ‘open’ department, with an active two-way flow of communication between the police and the public; they invite public inquiries on any matters of concern. On the other side of the coin, the city is a participant in the Crime Mapping service, where crime data is extracted from department files and displayed on the Internet in an easy-to-read manner. Although unfiltered, there are no specifics about the addresses or names on crime data until such information can be legally released. (The department monitors the data for compliance with state law.) This optional service gets accurate information to the public, which counters the rumor mill (and the undesirable effects that usually follow); it has been well received by the citizens.
With its diverse and growing economy, Grove City has weathered the economic downturn well. The police have received good support from city administrators, and have not had to scale back staff or operations (See “How cutbacks affect police operations”); the department will be adding two more officers in the coming year.
Part 2 will examine the inner workings of the Grove City Division of Police.