‘Unheard of’ level of violence has Columbus officials searching for answers

Columbus

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — It was a weekend of violence in Columbus, continuing an uptick of shootings and assaults the city has been dealing with for more than a year and a half.

One victim of the weekend’s violence – 45 year-old Tearicka Cradle – was shot and killed in her home early Sunday morning

She worked for the city of Columbus for nine years before becoming its 111th homicide victim for 2021.

“She was a great example, a shining light,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said Monday afternoon. “She was a member of the first class of the Restoration Academy that former Mayor Coleman started, Just a huge loss. She was a beacon of light, of hope for our entire community, but particularly our neighbors that are restored citizens that are coming back from the experience of the criminal justice system or incarceration.”

According to 911 calls released Monday, Cradle was found dead in her home on Jane Avenue by family members in what appeared to be a home invasion.

Police said homicides and assaults continue to happen at a record pace.

“Bullets don’t have names and just over the weekend, we had multiple incidents where three or more people were struck by gunfire in one incident,” said Sgt. James Fuqua with the Columbus Division of Police. “The amount of shootings we’re seeing — homicides, felonious assaults, all of these things — just the level of violence we’re seeing is unheard of.”

During 2020, a record-breaking year for homicides in the city, the 111th homicide didn’t occur until Sept. 24. By July 19 of 2020, only 69 homicides had occurred in the city.

It’s not just homicides that are up. As of July 19, 813 felony assaults occurred in the city so far in 2021, a 20 percent increase from the same day in 2020, when 678 had occurred up to that point.

Another number troubling Columbus Police: the solution rates for violent crimes.

“The investigative part of it is tough and our solve rates are at 50 percent, so if you’re involved in an incident where yourself or someone you know is hurt, you have a 1 in 2 chance of the perpetrator getting taken off the street,” Fuqua said. “There’s a good chance that your case may not be solved, so it’s important when you’re involved with this or you know someone that’s been involved with something, if you have that information, to come forward because we cannot solve these crimes and these cases without witnesses and key pieces of evidence that, most of the time, the public will have and can help us with.”

Ginther said as the city explores solutions to slow or stop the violence, it’s important to remember the deaths are more than just numbers and statistics.

“These are people,” he said. “These are moms, dads, in some cases, children, grandchildren and that’s what I think we need to stay focused on. We are less because of this loss and we are less than the loss of the many homicide victims that we have lost during this year. Every one of those lives matters.”

But when it comes to solutions, Fuqua said officers can only do so much

“We can put all the patrols out we want, but if the community’s not doing their part to minimize violence, then we’re going to continue to see these record numbers,” he said. “The community has a stake in this as well, so we have to start holding each other accountable. That means if you know someone that’s engaging in activity that is not the safest or they possess a firearm that they should not have or they’re going out and making poor life choices, we have to have people holding them accountable.”

Ginther said everyone has a part to play.

“It has to be a comprehensive approach,” he said. “We need to invest not just in public health and recreation and parks, making this unprecedented investment in summer youth programming, but also our police. We need our officers out there. We can change and reform our division of police and invest in more officers at the same time and that’s what we have to do.”

Ginther said there will be more news announced soon.

“We’re going to be sharing more information in the coming days about initiatives that we’re going to be funding and resourcing, but we’re also going to give updates to the community on right response and reroute,” he said. “We’re going to continue to focus on the comprehensive approach, things that are working, do more of them and expand them, and things that aren’t working, stop those and move on to other things. I think the people of Columbus need to know, this is my top priority and we’re absolutely focused on doing what we can to make sure everybody’s safe.”

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