COLUMBUS (WCMH) — After two more homicides on Labor Day, the annual homicide total for Columbus stands at 101 – just a few short of the 104 recorded for all of 2019.
“My call to the community is to ask yourself what you can do,” Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “Can you reach out to young people that you know who might be headed in the wrong direction? Can you volunteer to be a mentor or be a big brother or big sister?
Ginther and Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan said there’s a risk of residents becoming numb to the statistics.
“This is not a police problem,” said Ginther. “It’s not a city problem. It’s not a community problem. The problem of violence belongs to all of us.”
Quinlan said the violence this year is different. The average age of homicide victims in 2020 is 24, compared to 37 last year.
“Teens are taking risks and actions that we have not encountered before,” Quinlan said. “We need to change our approach… what we used to see and how we would normally attack hot spots… is now not the same approach because you have the teens that are going wherever the opportunity presents itself to use gun violence.”
Earlier this summer, Ginther announced a number of new and expanded programs:
- Micro-intervention teams of police officers, social workers, and juvenile court prosecutors reaching out to at-risk youth with the offer of wrap-around services from Franklin County Jobs and Family Services from the Family Stabilization Unit versus potential prosecution.
- Expanding ShotSpotter, a gunfire detection system that has proven successful at getting police to crime scenes quicker, to the Near East neighborhood in addition to Hilltop, Linden, and South Side.
- Partnership between Grant Hospital, Columbus Public Health and Recreation and Parks called VOICE (Violence Outreach, Intervention, Community Engagement) to provide bedside intervention to victims of assault and gunshot wounds to help them create opportunities for change.
- Up to $2 million in CARES Act funding to partner with social service agencies and trusted community partners embedded in neighborhoods to reach out to youth directly — leveraging existing relationships and positions of trust to provide intervention services and help at-risk youth.