COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The city of Columbus is trying a new approach to reducing violent crime. Mayor Andrew Ginther announced Monday the creation of the new Office of Violence Prevention. While it will work closely with police and other groups trying to make Columbus safer, it will be based in the mayor’s office.
“We believe that a comprehensive approach to gun violence is the way to go, we have recommendations from Dr. Roberts and health board of commissioners, one of those recommendations was around this office of violence prevention,” Ginther said. “It’ll be the first one of its kind in Ohio, there are about 20 of them around the country looking at how we can go about prevention, intervention and enforcement.”
Ginther has appointed Rena Shak to be the executive director of the Office of Violence Prevention.
“Really the goal of this office is to be the lead for the city with all city anti-violence programming,” Shak said.
Shak has been an assistant policy director in the mayor’s office since June and used to be a public defender. The city has budgeted $1.5 million dollars for the entire Office of Violence Prevention, according to the mayor. The office will be housed in city hall but Shak said the team will work closely with police.
“Police are first and foremost meant to be first responders, and they do a great job at that, this is more on the preventative side,” she said. “We’re hoping to reach people before they even get into the criminal justice system so we can head off some of that violence before the police even need to get involved.”
The following are year-to-date homicide numbers from the Columbus Division of Police:
- 2023 – 36
- 2022 – 26
- 2021 – 46
- 2020 – 27
- 2019 – 24
- 2018 – 24
- 2017 – 23
Ginther has launched several other anti-violence initiatives but violence is still a big problem in the city. NBC4 asked him why he thinks the Office of Violence Prevention will work.
“It’s important for us to remember homicides and violent crime went down more in Columbus last year than any other big city in America, so we’re seeing progress,” he said. “What this office will help us do is really to work upstream, especially in the prevention and intervention space to make sure we’re reducing potential for more violence in the future.”
While the mayor had already planned to announce the new office, but the announcement came just a couple days after six people were shot at an after-hours club in Merion Village. Two men in their early twenties were killed.
“One incident is one too many and we’ve got to continue to do everything we can,” Ginther said. “It’s staggering to think about the impact gun violence is having on this community, communities all over the country.”