Crime in the big city differs little from rural crime
By Joy Frank-Collins
Special to the Times
From a distance, there aren’t many similarities between being a law enforcement officer in the Mid-Ohio Valley and in larger metropolitan areas like Columbus and Dayton. But according to two officers who have seen both sides of the coin, there is one overwhelming thing all areas have in common.
“Crime is crime wherever you go,” said Dylan Evans. “There’s just more of it up here.”
For the last 10 years, Evans has served as a police officer at an inner-city precinct for the Columbus Division of Police. Prior to that, he was a deputy for the Washington County Sheriff’s Office for four years.
Meanwhile, Dustin Payne agreed that for the most part, the experience he had as a trooper for two years for the Ohio State Highway Patrol in the Dayton metropolitan area is similar in many ways to his current day-to-day at the Marietta Post, just busier.
“A lot of it comes down to access and the population. When you have a more urban population in a city versus a rural population in a rural area, there’s just more to get into,” he said.
Payne, a Waterford High School graduate, requested the Dayton metropolitan area as his first post after graduating from the academy. The knowledge he gained working in a faster-paced, more-densely populated area was an invaluable way to begin his career, he said.
“It was a great experience because I was exposed to so much stuff,” he said. “I truly believe that when you’re over in Dayton, you’re thrown into the deep end and expected to swim.”
Not only was he working traffic crashes and stops along two major interstates, but he was also exposed to violent crimes, car theft and heavy drug activity. Of course, that happens in this area, too, he conceded, just not with as much frequency.
He also witnessed a lot of gang activity, from street gangs like the Crips and Bloods to the more mobile types.
“You could pick any kind of race, religion or sexual orientation and there was a biker gang for it,” he said. “You had to really be on your toes a lot when you were working in the city.”
He also learned how to communicate effectively to a variety of audiences, a skill that comes in handy today. He said that all of the experience he gained from working in a more urban environment made him a better trooper who is better equipped to handle anything he might encounter along Interstate 77.
For Evans the reverse is true. The skills he learned under Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks enabled him to “come and work in the inner city harder and smarter,” he said.
During his time with the WCSO, he served in the detective bureau and took as many training courses as possible. In addition, the autonomy with which sheriff’s deputies operate gave him experience managing all aspects of a case, from responding to the initial call to conducting the investigation to working with the court system and beyond.
“Up here you’re a first responder, you show up and take care of the crisis at hand and then move onto the next thing and someone else picks things up from there,” he said, estimating that he may handle 20 such calls in a shift. “When you’re a deputy, you’re expected to do it all.”
His current precinct is three to four square miles (there are 20 in Columbus), as opposed to the 641 square miles that he used to safeguard in Washington County. As such, his response time to calls is now measured in minutes (typically one to three) instead of tens of minutes or even half an hour. He also works exclusively with a partner, which is quite a departure from his time in southeastern Ohio.
“When you’re a deputy, you’re all you have until someone else gets there,” he said.
Both men agreed that while practicing law enforcement in each unique area has its plusses and minuses, when it comes to the citizens of the Mid-Ohio Valley, there’s no comparison.
“It’s very personal there,” Evans said of the close-knit community he used to serve. “They’re good people.”
Ditto for the men and women who protect them, Payne added.
“There is great law enforcement here in Washington County. They really care about what happens to people,” he said.
Challenges for law enforcement in Appalachia
¯ Distance/travel time to calls.
¯ Officers often handle every aspect of a case.
¯ Backup may be farther away.
¯ Having knowledge of a larger geographic area.
¯ Reduced manpower.
Fatal overdoses in Washington County, 2010-16, by occupation and age
¯ Construction worker, age 26
¯Dock worker, age 24
¯ Electrician, age 51
¯ Factory worker, ages 58, 29
¯ Carpenter, age 28
¯ Self employed contractor, age 51
¯ Laborer, ages 21, 49, 47, 47, 21, 35, 52
¯ Timber cutter, age 40
¯ Truck driver, age 52
¯ Computer technician, age 46
¯ Student, age 17
¯ Homemaker, age 39
¯ No occupation given, unemployed or disabled, ages 27, 23, 29, 44, 29, 51
¯ Nurse, ages 53, 43
¯ Cosmetologist, age 38
¯West Virginia continued to be the state with highest drug overdose death rate, with a rate of 52 deaths per 100,000 state residents in 2016. Ohio and New Hampshire were next, both at about 39 per 100,000.
¯Gun deaths rose for a second year, to nearly 39,000. They had been hovering around 33,500 deaths a few years ago.
¯The United States ranks below dozens of other high-income countries in life expectancy, according to the World Bank. Highest is Japan, at nearly 84 years.