By Josephine Birdsell
Gun violence is on the rise in Columbus and city officials want to put a stop to the dangerous trend.
On Sept. 3 Columbus City Council met to address the issue.
According to Timothy Becker, deputy chief with the Columbus Division of Police, 83 people have died from gun violence this year and more than 750 people have been shot.
City leaders said the novel coronavirus has not helped the issue.
“Our youth are overwhelmed by the many challenges we are facing,” said councilman Mitchell Brown, “a pandemic that has emptied our schools, canceled extracurricular activities; an economic crisis that has diminished opportunities; and a number of national incidents of police misconduct that have undermined trust in law enforcement. These factors have led to a perfect storm.”
Council must address these issues and provide relief to the city’s youth if it wants to curb rising violence, he said.
In an effort to decrease the violence, the city began a number of community programs.
The recreation and parks department hosted programs and summer camps to provide kids with positive role models to help replace support that students may have lost after schools closed. The department plans to continue providing recreational programming during the school year. It also plans to provide active learning sites where students can complete their homework and access the Internet.
The department’s Applications for Purpose Pride and Success violence intervention program works to interrupt cycles of violence within neighborhoods through direct intervention as well.
The Columbus CARE Coalition helps families cope with violent loss by providing funeral support, connection to support groups and coping resources. It also provides free education to help community members understand the impact of trauma and build community resilience.
The city’s Violence Outreach Intervention Community Engagement program, in partnership with Grant Hospital, provides bedside therapeutic intervention to victims of violent crime.
City leaders want to use community engagement solutions to violence rather than relying on the criminal justice system.
“Involvement in the criminal justice system is often times related to the trauma an individual experiences, and there are also racial and gender inequities we should consider,” said councilwoman Priscilla Tyson.
According to Elizabeth Gill, a Franklin County juvenile court judge, the criminal justice system is not always fit to address the root cause of violence.
Spending one night in a detention center can decrease youth likelihood of graduating high school by 50 percent and increase youth likelihood of committing another crime during their lifetime by 50 percent, she said.
“These are all of our children. They are not just the children of our schools,” said Gill. “They are not just the children of Franklin County Children’s Services. They’re not just the children of Franklin County juvenile court, and they’re not just the children of the parents that are raising them. We need the entire community at our table.”