COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Homicide rates in Columbus are again trending upward — and the increase has some community members sounding the alarm.
There have been 44 homicides so far in 2023, according to Columbus police – nearly 50% higher than the 30 homicides by this time in 2022. Office of Violence Prevention Director Rena Shak said in an interview last week that “one homicide is too many.”
Now, as Columbus police are investigating four homicides that happened within 48 hours, gun violence community activists want to know what is being done to make sure it does not happen again.
Brenda Johnson said every time she sees the homicide rate go up in Columbus, her mind goes straight back to the moment her son, James Johnson, was killed.
“I can only imagine what the mothers are feeling — and well, the families in general,” Johnson said.
Her son’s murder is still unsolved, two years after his death.
She is a part of the Mothers of Murdered Columbus Children, and it’s not by choice.
“Enough is enough,” Johnson said. “We’ve had enough like we all wear these orange shirts, but we don’t want any more orange shirts,” Johnson said.
Johnson said she is choosing to take an active part in the change, and she hopes other community members make that choice, too.
“People have got to step up. The community has got to step up. I mean, I know we think that police are supposed to solve all these crimes, but if people don’t speak up and get these people off the streets ,it’s never going to be OK,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the need for more community involvement includes city leaders. She wants to see more money put aside for rewards to help solve unsolved cases. She believes if enough effort is put into the fight, there will be a solution.
“I want people to know that their loved ones count. They matter. If they don’t matter to anyone else, they matter to me,” Johnson said.
The year-to-date homicide rate of 44 approaches the rate of homicides during the city’s deadliest year, according to Columbus police. In 2021, there were 50 homicides by this time.
Ralph Carter, the founder of We Are Linden, said he is shocked by the number of deaths considering all the work they’ve done.
“I think really we just need to reassess, look at everybody as a whole, see more ways of collaboration amongst all non-profits,” Carter said.
Carter acknowledged the validity of criticism of city leaders but said that the responsibility does not fall solely upon them.
“I mean, they have their job to do, just like we have our job to do,” Carter said. “This is something that we took upon our shoulders and said, ‘We are going to do community work.'”
NBC4 reached out to Mayor Andrew Ginther for an interview. He responded back with a statement.
“One death is too many. We are continuing to address safety through enforcement, prevention and intervention tactics,” said Ginther. “We’re investing in the most innovative and effective ideas to bring down violence while exploring new ways of combating the flow of illegal crime guns into our community – which account for more than 90% of homicides in Columbus.”
According to Columbus police, 31 of this year’s 44 homicides were by firearm.
NBC4 requested an interview with Chief Elaine Bryant and Assistant Chief LaShanna Potts, but they did not respond by the time of publication.