COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus community leaders believe their anti-crime efforts are working — but said their work isn’t done.
After Columbus police released its 2022 crime report showing downward trends in homicides, assaults and other crimes, activists and leaders said their motivation to continue improvements has only boomed.
“There is still a lot of work to be done,” said Ralph Carter, the Founder of We Are Linden. “I still have that same mindset, the same passion in line.”
The one area where numbers soared is car thefts – mostly involving juveniles.
“The young people, they glorify what they are doing. I’m thinking they feel like it is a big video game to them, thinking they will have more lives once they crash these cars and that’s not the case,” Carter said. “They are driving themselves to an early grave, and they don’t see that.”
Police believe many of the city’s auto thefts are perpetrated by repeat juvenile offenders — dubbed the “Kia Boys.” Nearly half of the more than 7,000 car thefts in Columbus in 2022 were of Kia and Hyundai vehicles.
Carter and Malissa Thomas-St. Clair, the founder of Mothers of Murdered Columbus Children, said they believe their community involvement can help keep teenagers on the right track.
“We know that it is going to take time, but it’s got to be consistent,” Thomas-St. Clair said.
Thomas-St. Clair said in 2023, the organization plans to continue its work with the families of the Kia boys. Last year, it helped organize a sit-down between the families, Columbus police and juvenile justice judges.
“We are trying to really identify specific youth who can benefit from any of our programming,” Thomas-St. Clair said.
Saturday, the Mothers of Murdered Columbus Children will start a new initiative called “investing in our future.”
Thomas-St. Clair said it will focus on giving young people the attention they need to grow.
Carter said his organization tries to engage the kids through events like community walks and tailgates at sporting events. He said now, they hope to keep that youth engagement going throughout 2023 – and hopefully by the end, the city will see a downward trend in every area of crime.
“This is a community issue. Only we can drive out this hate that is going on amongst our young people,” Carter said. “There’s a lot of misplaced hate I will say and we need to champion that and help them get through this.”