The city of Columbus announced new initiatives and an expansion of some existing efforts to stem a spike in homicides and violent crimes. Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther unveiled the first of several new ideas from discussions he's held since the start of the year with community members, faith leaders, law enforcement, and high school students.
One new program involves a collaboration with the mentoring group Men of Linden and New Salem Community Development Corporation called Growing U.P.
"An initiative that provides comprehensive education, development, and employment that's focused on young men from the Linden community who need stable jobs so they can raise a family and contribute to the community," Mayor Ginther said. "We anticipate reaching 30 young men through the pilot program and will expand this program over the next couple years to serve even more. Next we are enlisting End The Violence, a program by two former gang members to assist youth and young adults in manuevering their lives away from crime."
Ginther will also work with suburban mayors, city managers, and county judges to find diversion and intervention programs for young people involved in lower level crimes. Existing efforts being expanding include ReRoute, a service outreach program for at-risk youth and their families, and the Safe Neighborhoods collaboration, which assists offenders who are on probation. The Safe Streets officer bike patrol program will increase the amount of time officers engage with the community and run from spring through fall instead of just the summer.
Hilltop resident and principal Malik Moore says providing young people with love, support, and access can help them see a positive path.
"As we meet these young people where they are, when we meet them how they are, and we see them as their future selves, they know that we're there to support them," Moore said. "Through that act, we create safety. We create belonging, and we give them an opportunity to see a future with them in it. Had it not been for the people that saw the future me before I did and the intentional efforts given to me, I might have given up and listened to the people that were willing to accept me for who I was at that moment and not push me to become a better version of myself."
The spike in violence in Columbus and around the country has been attributed in large part to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis. Columbus officials say it's important to recognize that each homicide represents a person, not just a number.