COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Enough is enough. That’s the message city leaders are sending through a new program called Columbus Violence Reduction.
Columbus Violence Reduction is a new partnership between community members, law enforcement agencies and social service providers, united by a common goal to stop violence and keep the city’s highest-risk residents safe, alive and out of prison.
City leaders say the program is based on the reality that violence in Columbus is being driven by a very small proportion of the population, mostly members of gangs and other groups. These group members are also at a disproportionate risk of being victimized.
“We’re sending a proactive message from law enforcement to adults that are involved in or perpetuating group and gang gun violence and other types of violence throughout the city,” said Molly Robbins, director of the new program. “So we’re talking about homicides and felony assaults and that type of crime. The amount of violence in the city is too high.”
The program brings together law enforcement, community members and social service providers to engage with individuals who are most likely to shoot — or be shot.
“They’re on a path towards death or long term incarceration. That’s the bottom line,” said Mayor Andrew Ginther.
The groups hosts “call-in sessions,” and nine men attended one Tuesday night.
The call-in is one of the primary tools the program uses. It is a face-to-face meeting between law enforcement, community figures, social service providers, and group members.
The goal is to inform these individuals what will happen if they don’t change their ways, and also who their actions affect.
“I am a mother of a murdered Columbus child,” said Rhonda Clayborn, whose son was killed three years ago. “I don’t want another mother to have a birth certificate and a death certificate.”
And people like Dominic Jones who was on the same path these men are headed.
“I remember being locked up for 22 hours out of the day,” says Jones. “I got the chance to do whatever I had to do. And I made the decision right there that I would never come back to this place.”
The new program helps connect those identified with tools, jobs, and resources to keep them out of prison – and alive. The goal is to meet their immediate and long term needs.
“We want you safe alive, and out of prison,” said Columbus Police Chief Elaine Bryant. “We mean that. We want to help. But the first person that leaves out of here tonight and perpetuates shootings or violence, will get the full attention of law enforcement.”
Since the first call in session in June, 16 of the 17 participants are safe, alive, and out of prison.
Robbins said city leaders are proud of that number, but they also recognize this is the beginning of a long road to change.