March 9, 2021
Many people thought that when we turned the page on 2020, we would turn the page on the violent crime that plagued our city. But the causes of the spike in violent crime haven’t changed. Sadly we continue to see a record number of homicides in our city.
Columbus is not alone in this tragic trend. Small, large and mid-size cities are experiencing the same.
And it is crucial that we all remember that we are not talking about statistics – we are talking about people. Each person killed leaves behind a family, friends and a gap in the neighborhood.
The solutions aren’t simple. There is not one single set path. But we are committed to doing everything we can to end the violence we are experiencing today.
In 2017, Columbus experienced its highest number of homicides in the city’s history. To find a solution, I held a series of small group meetings with members of the community and law enforcement, and from that the Comprehensive Neighborhood Safety Strategy was born.
The Comprehensive Neighborhood Safety Strategy takes a broad-based approach to safety by engaging law enforcement as well as all city departments, businesses, the community and faith leaders. Because of the strategy, homicides dropped 28% in 2018 and 33% in 2019.
Sadly, in 2020, Columbus set a tragic new high with 175 homicides.
The current spike in homicides and other violent crimes is happening for different reasons than what we saw in 2017 -- primarily related to the global pandemic and economic crisis it brought on the city.
COVID-19 thrust many residents into crisis with housing and food insecurity, lack of consistent in-person education and the closing of many of the safety nets so many residents relied on -- from libraries to recreation centers.
Desperation, frustration and anger have led to much of the crime we are seeing now.
We need to address the new causes of violence by adapting the current strategies and adding new ones.
Since the beginning of the year, I have been meeting with small groups – community members, faith leaders, law enforcement and high school students. I asked them what they need to feel safe in their neighborhoods.
Today, we announced plans that came from those conversations. But let me be clear: This is just the start. As the year progresses, we will continue to adjust based on results we see. And we will bring on new programs to continue this battle.
New initiatives include:
- Growing U.P.: an initiative that provides comprehensive education, development and employment that is focused on young men from the Linden community who need stable jobs so they can raise a family and contribute to the community. The program will be managed by the New Salem Community Development Corporation and consists of recruitment of life coaching, education, soft skill development, employment and mentoring from the Men of Linden. We anticipate reaching 30 young men through a pilot and will expand this program over the next couple of years to serve even more.
- End the Violence: Through crisis management, intervention and other activities that assist youth and young adults, End the Violence will provide continuity and connection to supportive services, information and supplies to reduce the risk of violence, as well as the spread and exposure of COVID-19 in our opportunity neighborhoods. Approximately 80 young people will be served by this initiative.
- Call for suburban mayors and city managers to work with county judges to find diversion programs that work for our youth.
In addition, I laid out expansions to proven programs already in existence:
- ReRoute – micro-interventions for at-risk young people and their families with a coordinated response from Columbus Division of Police, Columbus Public Health and Recreation and Parks. This program reaches out to at-risk youth and their families to provide services to address housing and food insecurity, education issues, grief counseling and much more and has so far impacted 46 young people and removed 267 guns from the streets. I am doubling the number of interventionists and social workers to work in conjunction with interventionists funded by the city at the Columbus Urban League and Community for New Direction to expand this work citywide.
- Safe Streets: bike patrol through CPD will expand to include first shift in addition to second shift, and run from spring through fall instead of just summer. The focus will be on proactive community engagement.
- Safe Neighborhoods: a collaborative effort between Public Safety and the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas that focuses on violent offenders who are on probation and at risk to re-offend, who are offered significant social services to provide an alternative plan from one of crime and violence. The program – developed by renowned criminologist David Kennedy – will leverage the individual model into a group model and will be housed at three to-be-named churches in different neighborhoods.
I want to reiterate that this is just the beginning of our anti-violence efforts.
We have a long way to go to stop the violence here in Columbus. This will not be the last press conference I have to address the crisis. But I am confident these steps will help reverse the violent trend we are seeing.