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City Council talks solutions to community violence

Following a recent uptick in shootings downtown, Public Health and Human Services Director Stephanie Browning brought a report from the 2014 Mayor’s Task Force on Community Violence back before city council Monday night.

She listed the goals of the task force and what the city has executed as a result, citing the four pillars it identified in swaying crime: prevention, intervention, enforcement and re-entry for formerly incarcerated people.

The 7-year-old report focused on violence among youth, she said, but many of its findings remain relevant.

The results of the report led to the city instituting several programs, she said. Monday, council members discussed other ways to address the increase in community violence. Namely, multiple members supported hiring a person to act as a liaison among different local entities and coordinate resources, including the county and Columbia Public Schools.

Browning also brought up the potential for using American Rescue Plan Act funds to address the issue.

Public speakers such as Susan Renee Carter, Rose Metro and Nina Hampton noted that some of the goals the Task Force had were not completely addressed or, in some cases, executed whatsoever.

“(Programs) are not going to reduce crime in your city if you don’t do them right,” Carter said.

Metro, speaking on behalf of Mom’s Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, cited problems with Columbia’s response to gun violence, such as being more reactive than preventative. She said that there needs to be community engagement to address this problem, and the issue of community violence needs to be declared a public health issue.

City Council members came to a general consensus that elements within the report need to be revisited. Mayor Brian Treece brought up an increase in resource officers in schools, though First Ward Councilperson Pat Fowler noted that support in schools does not necessarily have to be police officers.

The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.