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Columbus police cracking down on 'squad' violence

COLUMBUS (WCMH) -  You've heard about the efforts to stop gang violence in the city, but police are also cracking down on another group. They're called Squads and police said they are very similar to gangs.

Just like gangs, authorities said these Squads have various names. They are also violent.

Juvenile correctional officer and Executive pastor Rick Jones, with City of Grace, says he's spoken to many of these Squad members and encouraged them to leave that life behind from the pulpit.  He says each squad has a different name.

"Somebody dies in their neighborhood, that's one of their friends, and they build a squad around their name. For instance, if his name was jack, they call it Jack's world," said Jones.

Then those Squads, for one reason or another, become enemies and fights and shootings follow Jones said.

"It's almost like they provoke murder. They talk about each other's dead homies," said Jones.

Columbus police say these "Squads" have been out since at least 2015, and they investigate them just the same as gangs. The two are similar, but police say these squads do not have a hierarchy.  The department said they have a "Criminal Intelligence Unit" in place to investigate these squads. Dejon White with the organization "Think Make Live" said he's familiar with Squads, and how teens get involved in them.

"Not having that opportunity, I think, is one of the biggest things that pushes people to get in a gang," said White.

That's why White said it's the organization's mission to expose at-risk teens to opportunities, so another child doesn't have to die because of their affiliation with a Squad.

 "It encourages me to push me to fight harder in what I do to change those lives," said White.


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