The Aug. 25 shooting alert that worried thousands of Ohio State students came from a place that is no stranger to police.
Columbus Police received 992 calls in the past five years at Ohio State’s neighborhood McDonald’s, located at 1972 N. High St., according to records obtained by The Lantern. The calls regarded crimes that include minor disturbances, trespassing, thefts, 14 assaults and two robberies.
That’s more than three times the number of calls reported in the same time period at three other nearby businesses that are also open 24/7 and sell food.
“That is a highly unusual large amount of calls for service to any address,” Sgt. James Fuqua, of the Public Information Office at Columbus Police Department, said.
The Lantern was unable to reach the franchise owner of McDonald’s, and the managers declined to provide the owner’s information following multiple phone calls and in-person attempts.
On Aug. 25, CPD responded to several shots fired in the McDonald’s parking lot, in which one victim suffered a gunshot wound to the thigh, according to a Columbus Police press release.
A Buckeye Alert was sent out to students at 1:36 a.m. that said, “Buckeye Alert! Active attacker reported on the OSU Columbus campus. Secure in place: Run, Hide or, as a last resort Fight! Police responding. More info soon.” This was one of a string of messages that students received the night of the shooting.
Businesses similar to McDonald’s received a fraction of the number of calls in the same time period. For example, police received 352 calls at the North Campus-area United Dairy Farmers, which also has a parking lot, from September 2014 to September 2019.
Police received 312 calls in the past five years at Waffle House, located at 1712 N. High St., across the street from the Ohio Union.
Police were called 253 times to Buckeye Donuts, located at 1998 N. High St., in the past five years.
Calls don’t always result in police reports, but 184 reports were filed at McDonald’s in the past five years, according to CPD records, which included 49 thefts, two robberies, 54 accounts of trespassing (even though the location is open 24 hours, people can be refused service) and 14 assaults.
According to data pulled from the service call run log, 345 — or 34.7 percent — of the calls were placed between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., and while this is the highest number of calls placed in a six-hour interval, crime happens at this McDonald’s continuously throughout the day.
The next highest number of calls occurred between 3 a.m. and 9 a.m., in which 251 calls were placed — just more than 25 percent.
Call records show that 424 of the service calls made were in response to general disturbances. Fuqua said a general disturbance is usually used when the police get a call to respond to a situation, but they are unsure of the classification of the incident until it is investigated further.
According to the records, police did not respond to 110 of the calls. These calls could be someone calling to ask a question; for police to respond, but then be called back to say they are no longer needed; or for an incident that does not require police response, Fuqua said.
Fuqua said when the police station receives calls, it has a one to five priority system. Priority one incidents require a lights-and-sirens response, including shootings, stabbings, sexual assault in progress and robbery. Priority five incidents are occurrences like car thefts.
When there is an overwhelming amount of calls of service to one area, the police start to follow this data and try to create more of a presence there, Fuqua said.
“When we get an increase call of service to a particular address or particular area, we always track that data, and we put our resources in those areas to be as much of a presence as anything else as possible to prevent future issues from happening,” Fuqua said. “So I would say that yes, we did increase our police presence and awareness there due to that rise in uptake and priority calls for service.”
The difference in the number of calls between McDonald’s and other similar businesses may be explained by its central location and cheap prices, Fuqua said.
“Not only is it a high traffic area just passing through the location, it’s an affordable restaurant to especially college students, so the more business you have, generally the more calls of service you’ll have no matter what it is or where you are,” Fuqua said.
CPD and University Police work together to share crime-related information around the campus area, and Columbus Police has higher officer presence in neighborhoods that are known to have the most students, Dan Hedman, university spokesperson, said in an email. The partnership includes joint patrols and joint jurisdiction; through this, a CPD officer and OSUPD officer partner to patrol the off-campus area each night.
Hedman said Ohio State offers a Lyft Ride Smart program that offers discounted safe rides for students between 9 p.m. and 3 a.m., as well as a free app called Rave Guardian that allows users to receive emergency notifications quicker and provides mobile tracking through a virtual guardian.
“Our university Department of Public Safety, along with university constituents, work continuously to provide safety education, information, programming, training and notices to students, faculty and staff,” Hedman said.