COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A new report is shining a light on homicides in Columbus and who is likely committing most of them.
Last October, Columbus City Council contracted criminologist David Kennedy to help find causes and solutions to the city’s violence and homicides.
Kennedy is part of the National Network for Safe Communities at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York. He’s known for his expertise in Group Violence Intervention (GVI).
Despite being finished in April, the report is just now being released publicly a year after it was commissioned.
Using data and intelligence provided by Columbus police, Kennedy and his team found there are 17 active street gangs in Columbus. The report charts those active street gangs across the city, how big they are, and where they operate.
A sociogram shows how those gangs interact with each other with red lines showing rivalries and green line showing alliances.
On Tuesday, city leaders discussed just some of what was in the 29-page report.
“Through GVI or group violence intervention, we’re working to identify individuals, and groups, trends and geographic boundaries to focus our resources where they can do the most good for the most people,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said.
In total, those gangs represent only 480 residents – .05 percent of the population of Columbus. Despite their small size, police know they are responsible for at least 36 percent of homicides in the city, and are likely responsible for nearly half of them.
“By identifying these active groups and their members, law enforcement can more effectively focus on the population in their city most likely to perpetrate and be victimized by serious violence,” the report states.
Moving forward, the report suggests the city focus on three key pillars.
“The National Network for Safe Communities’ Group Violence Intervention has repeatedly shown that cities can dramatically reduce violence when community members and law enforcement join together to directly engage with active, violent street groups and clearly communicate: 1) a credible community message against violence; 2) a credible law enforcement message about the consequences of further violence; 3) a credible and genuine offer of help for those who want it,” the report states.
In a press conference Tuesday discussing crime, Columbus Division of Police Asst. Chief LaShawna Potts says GVI has proven successful during her tenure at her previous department in Detroit.
“The GVI model is not a quick fix. It is a sustained community effort,” Potts said. “This takes commitment by all of resources and time. This program is in its infancy stage here in Columbus, but in cities across the country, done correctly, it has produced tremendous results.”
The reports suggest a next step of calling those community members – including gang members – together, in order to communicate that three-pillar message.
“A key moment in the strategy is a ‘call-in,’ a face-to-face meeting between group members and the partnership, repeated at intervals as necessary,” the report states. “The partners deliver key messages to group members: violence is wrong and has to stop; the community needs them safe, alive, free from incarceration, and with their loved ones; unconditional support is available to all who will take it; and violence will be met with swift, certain, and fair consequences.”
Another change the report recommends is putting pressure on the gangs as a whole.
“A central operational shift is that law enforcement puts groups on prior notice that law enforcement will meet group-involved violence with a specific and swift response directed at the group as a whole rather than at individuals. Individual violent offenders receive the same enforcement attention as they had previously. However, their fellow group members get new attention for any new crimes committed, outstanding warrants, probation and parole violations, open cases and other possible formal and informal levers that can be pulled to apply unwanted pressure,” the report stated.
More recommendations based on the report are expected to be released in the coming weeks.