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Pandemic may be contributing to rise in violence in Columbus, mayor says

City of Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther addresses public safety March 9, 2021. (WSYX)
City of Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther addresses public safety March 9, 2021. (WSYX)
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Columbus City Hall is rolling out new anti-violence initiatives as the city is once again on pace to have another record-breaking year of homicides.

“I think we will be working on this for a long time,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said as he discussed new steps the city is taking to keep streets safe from violent crime.

The majority of the crimes, police said, are being committed by juveniles and young adults under the age of 23.

“I think it is crazy, “ said Pastor LB Brown, who lives in Linden, “the youth have nothing to do, they are bored, and feel frustrated.”

Columbus currently has recorded 39 homicides in 2021. That's nearly double the number of murders during the same time period in 2020, when the city had record number of 175 murders.

Ginther blames part of the violent crime increase on the pandemic, saying cities like Indianapolis and Nashville experiencing the same jump in violence.

“We need to address the new causes of violence,” said Ginther, who Tuesday announced several new partnerships to keep the streets safe

On Tuesday, Ginther announced 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.

“We anticipate to reach 30-young men through a pilot program and expand it to serve even more,” Ginther said.

The program will be managed by the New Salem Community Development Corporation and consists of the recruitment of life coaching, education, soft skill development, employment, and mentoring from the Men of Linden. The program anticipates reaching 30 young men through a pilot and will expand this program over the next couple of years to serve even more.

Another initiative announced is 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.

“They can deliver a message in a way that I can’t, and we can’t as a city,” Ginther said. “To help interrupt and disrupt the violence that we are seeing.”

Suburban mayors and city managers are being called on to work with county judges to find diversion programs that work for our youth.

In addition, Ginther laid out expansions to proven programs that have proven to decrease criminal activity in some parts of the city.

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.

“I don’t know how many officers have said we have arrested a juvenile with a gun, and a mom came up to us at the scene and was upset, not because they were being arrested but because they have been trying to get them on the right path and they are struggling and they need help,” Columbus Police Commander Smith Weir said.

Ginther is 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.

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