COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Just 13 days into the new year, Columbus has 12 homicides. If the pace keeps up, Columbus Police Sergeant James Fuqua explained 2021 could break last year’s record of 174 homicides.
“Just as a point of reference: this time last year, we were only at 8 homicides,” Fuqua said. “In 2019, at this point, we were only at 4 homicides, so we are already accelerating at a pace we don’t want to happen.”
The department is working on new ideas to try to stop violence and death in the city. Police are putting together a Youth Services Program that was supposed to launch last year but was delayed because of the pandemic.
“It is a group of officers that are dedicated to working in resources to help young people in our city, not necessarily like troubled teens, but just young people in general,” he said.
Fuqua said people are uncomfortable coming forward as witnesses or sharing information that could protect the public in the future.
“The thing that they told me that is troubling is they have a homicide right now where they have five witnesses that they absolutely know who committed that homicide,” Fuqua said, describing a scenario detectives often find themselves in. “Without a confession or the evidence, it’s going to be nearly impossible for us to solve this case. Knowing that we have these witnesses and this detective can only do so much causes him to lose sleep at night.”
He added officers are being asked to be more present in their precincts, tasked with getting to know the community. The hope is that people become more comfortable talking and trusting the police.
“Have more of a personal relationship because, clearly, that is something that we need to continue to focus on because we’re not doing enough of that right now,” Fuqua said.
According to Fuqua, many of these crimes involve youth in the city. He’s urging parents to be more aware of what their children are doing and who they spend their time with.
He said 2020 and 2021 have been difficult with the pandemic, protests, and politics.
“All of these life stressors have become so severe to the point where people are just at their wit’s end,” he said. “Just being honest, the amount of stress us as humans are facing is extreme and it’s going to continue through this year until we figure out a way to get through this pandemic.”