Members of Mayor Bob McDavid’s Anti-Violence Task Force are calling for a stronger relationship between Columbia police and the city’s youth.
“The police need to know them as individuals and treat them as individuals,” task force member David Thomas said. “If we treat them with respect, they will show respect.”
Task force member Tyree Byndom agreed with Thomas, and he said the age of the mentor has retired.
This request for mutual respect follows an increase in youth violence during the last 30 years and citywide efforts to create a safer community, Thomas said.
The city needs an unbiased look at crime statistics in order to find a solution to decrease it, said Michael Trapp, second ward councilman and task force co-chairman.
Suggestions of where to start included involvement in schools, employment opportunities, youth programming and attention to family dynamics.
Task force members agreed at the meeting that in-depth research would be required to determine demographics and key themes behind the violence.
Task force member Cindy Garrett asked that the task force define what cases will be studied. The results would vary depending on requirements to classify incidents as homicides or shootings where shells were found.
“We have to have a focus that a majority of people can relate to,” task force member Jerry Taylor said.
The task force decided to study all violent crimes that occurred in 2012 and 2013.
Trapp called for a motion to examine violent crime incidents in 2012 and 2013 in which the Columbia Police Department has an identified perpetrator.
After brief discussion, it was decided that an inquiry on a case without a suspect identified could still aid in research, so all incidents in the past two years would be requested, but CPD would be unable to comment on specifics of ongoing investigations. The suggestion was not motioned.
The department could still answer questions about the driving factors behind several high-profile incidents, so the Task Force plans to invite a representative from the department to its next meeting.
Because Trapp is a member of City Council, fellow Task Force members, as constituents of the city, would have to request the information from CPD to avoid a conflict of interest.
Although members of the gallery suggested an appearance by Police Chief Ken Burton due to interest in public safety, some members said he was unlikely to show. Burton has not yet gotten directly involved with the Task Force.
So instead, Trapp recommended a crime analyst.
Statistics previously presented by the mayor show the number of reported shots fired have increased in the past few years.
Trapp said he does not believe the community is any more violent than similar communities elsewhere, though crime is still an issue.
“Violence is still pervasive, even in relatively safe communities,” Trapp said. “A lot of the violence and things are swept under the rug and covered up.”
Several members advocated adding younger voices to the panel.
“They are expecting us to give them hope for the future,” Byndom said. “They want us to impress them.”