COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – There is an “unprecedented” increase in violent crime involving young people across the state, according to Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Andy Wilson.

“The communities that are most affected by this are begging for help with it,” Wilson said.

Wilson and Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) said there are things that can be done better to stop the unprecedented increases in youth violent crime.

“As the age goes down, the numbers are going up,” DeWine said. “That certainly is a societal problem that we have to tackle.”

Wilson said a reactive approach does not work.

“It’s too late [when a kid is using] a gun to commit a murder, commit a shooting, to intervene at that point,” Wilson said.

Wilson said there isn’t one solution, but he said a lot of it is about community-based preventative approaches and reaching at-risk youth before they commit a crime.

“We’re going to continue to increase the number and the frequency in which we are doing those service initiatives,” Wilson said. “They’re data-driven. We identify the highest crime or violent crime areas; we go to those areas to avoid over-policing.”

DeWine set aside $175 million of American Rescue Plan funds to go towards violent crime reduction.

“The majority of that money went to law enforcement efforts, giving technology and funds and grants to police departments to deal with violent crime issues in their community,” Wilson said.

Wilson said $20 million went to community-based violent crime intervention.

“So, they could wrap around these at-risk kids,” he said. “Identify these at-risk kids and provide services to keep them from ever going down this road.”

Wilson said there is not just one answer to the problem but acknowledged there are things ODPS can do better.

“There’s no doubt about it,” Wilson said. “You ask how patient people should be — if people are dying in your neighborhood, you need to demand that the courts, that the municipality, that the law enforcement agency, you need to demand they get in there and make your streets safe.”

Wilson said it is also about getting illegal weapons — and criminals — off the streets.

“We have to address people who are giving kids guns,” Wilson said. “They’re criminals.”

DeWine said he would like to see lawmakers at the Ohio Statehouse work on legislation to target repeat violent offenders more heavily and those who illegally have weapons. 

He said the approach to curb youth violence is an all-hands-on-deck situation.

“Youth violence crosses a number of different departments,” DeWine said.