Though UA has low crime rates, analysis shows that the community does have some crime hiding just below the surface
By Olivia Chohan & Annabelle Davies, ’20, and Ty Fredrick, ’22
Sunday mornings are for coffee, quiet walks, and relaxation. But for Jessica Efird, the morning of Sunday, Oct. 14 was filled with what she hoped was a Halloween prank. The Columbus Dispatch reports that when Efird and a neighbor went out for a walk, they discovered what they had hoped to be “some sort of Halloween dummy,” but was in fact the body of Bobbie Renee Simpson, who had been murdered that morning.
Simpson was not a resident of Upper Arlington, but her family claims she was an “honor-roll student… a good daughter and sister whose life went downhill after she got involved with the wrong person as a teenager….” When her body was discovered on Oct. 14, she showed signs of obvious trauma including mutilation of her right arm and failed attempts at further dismemberment. Her body had been placed in a container before being set on fire, which is why Efird and her neighbor thought it was a bush fire.
Mohammed Abdullahi, 27, was arrested in connection with Simpson’s murder after he was pulled over for a traffic conviction and OVI. In addition to this, he has numerous other charges against him, including arson, abuse of a corpse, murder, and tampering with evidence.
These events are abnormal for Upper Arlington, where crime does not usually show up in the news. Residents generally feel very safe, and youth tend to disregard crime. While UA does have low crime rates, deeper analyzation shows that this community does, in fact, have some crime under the surface. UA Police Officer Jon Rice said the crime rate in Upper Arlington is fairly similar to crime throughout Franklin County. “A lot of [the counties in Ohio] are similar with crimes,” he said. “We all have the same issues.”
While the sense of “living in a bubble” devoid of problems and crime is well known in Upper Arlington, this is not true for the rest of Franklin County. Franklin County averages 92.6 murders per year, and on average, 90 percent of those murders come from Columbus, which entirely envelopes Upper Arlington. Last year, murder in Columbus reached its highest number of murders in the period of time from 1990. Upper Arlington historically has had virtually no murders, so this increase in Columbus could relate to the sudden occurrences.
The Burbank Park incident isn’t the only murder in Upper Arlington in the past year. Last summer on June 11, outside of the China Dynasty restaurant on Lane Avenue, a violent murder was committed that may hit closer to home for many of Upper Arlington’s residents; many residents have eaten here, and the restaurant is located on Lane Avenue, one of Arlington’s busiest streets. Jeffrey Blair Harrison was convicted of first degree murder following a confrontation with Charles McCoy, whom he fatally stabbed after McCoy had a verbal altercation with Harrison’s girlfriend Tina Patrick. Patrick and McCoy both worked at China Dynasty.
Upper Arlington has, comparatively, fewer average rates of crime than in the United States; however, the rates of property crime in Upper Arlington and the United States are much closer, perhaps due to the perception of wealth within UA neighborhoods.
“I think what we see most often is theft,” Officer Rice said. “There probably isn’t a night that goes by where we don’t get reports of, we call them car surfers, who go from car to car taking change, purses.”
The graph below represents a survey of 222 UAHS students, and shows how many students of each grade level have experienced crime in the past year. The most prevalent answer for all grades was that they hadn’t experienced crime in the past year. However, the group who had experienced the most crime is the junior class. Juniors and seniors tend to be students who have a driver’s license. This could indicate that the crime experienced by the juniors and some seniors, who are drivers that have less experience and may be more likely to leave their cars unlocked or parked in unsafe areas, could experience higher rates of personal crime due to car theft. Seniors who are more mature drivers, who may be less likely to make simple mistakes like leaving their car unlocked, may represent the lower rates of crime in seniors than in juniors.
In the graph below, Upper Arlington’s crime can be seen to rise and fall with the crime rates of the United States, and nowhere does the rate of UA exceed the other, but there are also fairly high rates of theft. The rates are out of 1,000 citizens.This aligns with the Officer Rice’s explanation that while Upper Arlington has low rates of crime, its citizens are most likely to be affected by theft.
The China Dynasty and Burbank Park incidents are the most recent homicides recorded in Upper Arlington, a neighborhood many people believe to be safe as mentioned above. In a voluntary journalism survey of 222 UAHS students in November 2018, 80.5% of students said that they believed Upper Arlington has a lower rate of crime than surrounding areas, and 14.9% said it was about the same.
Many students, even in light of past events, still feel as though Upper Arlington is just as safe as it was before. In fact, most students claimed they weren’t affected by the Burbank incident, as the murder is not suspected to have actually taken place in UA; the body was only discarded in UA. Junior Daniel Owens says, “I think nothing of it. I, along with my neighbors, have never experienced crime.”
But even though students may feel as though Upper Arlington has a lower rate of crime than surrounding areas, this may be to their own interpretation of crime and safety. Below is a chart based on data from a survey representing the number of homicides UAHS students have heard about in the past year. More than half the students surveyed stated that they had heard about only one-to-two murders, likely due to the previously discussed cases, but very few students had heard about anywhere between five-to-10+ murders even when taking the entirety of Franklin county into consideration. Even then, 8.1% of students surveyed said that they hadn’t even heard of a murder in the past year at all.
While it may not seem like crime could affect individuals, 1 in 65 people in Upper Arlington may become a victim of property crime, vs 1 in 39 people in Ohio. In the survey conducted,18.3% of students surveyed said that they had been the victim of property crime, and 49.3% said that they knew someone who had been affected by property crime. These statistics correspond with the viewpoint and statistics that, while Upper Arlington has lower rates of high level crime then surrounding areas, property crime is the most common experience citizens have. While citizens may have not been affected by property crime, there is a high chance that they will know someone who has been.