COLUMBIA — Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser outlined some of the initial goals of the Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence in a speech to the Boone Country Pachyderm Club on Tuesday evening at the Hy-Vee on Nifong Boulevard.
Nauser, who co-chairs the task force alongside Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp, spoke for about 10 minutes to the Republican-affiliated organization before opening the floor up for questions, which lasted 30 minutes.
She said that although the task force will address many issues related to crime and violence among youths, initially they plan to focus on enforcement, intervention and prevention, as well as re-entry into the public after incarceration. Enforcement will be addressed first, followed by intervention and prevention.
"It's like a stool," Nauser said. "If one of the legs was weak or removed, that chair is not going to be sturdy. And so to deal with crime, especially with our youth, we have to look at all four of those supports so we can move our community forward."
Mayor Bob McDavid formed the task force this summer in response to an increase of youth violence in Columbia. Members include minority and diversity leaders, community organizers and a local corporate CEO.
The task force is scheduled to meet for the first time next week. The date and time for the meeting have not yet been announced, but it will be open to the public.
At Tuesday's meeting, many Pachyderm club members suggested solutions to the problem of youth violence. Nauser said community involvement would be critical to the success of the task force, as well as listening to the diverse viewpoints of its 13 members.
"This is not going to be a top-down approach," Nauser said. "This is going to be an effort by the task force — those 13 members we appointed — on how they want to deal with this. They're the experts. They have the background."
Nauser said the task force has to make its final proposal to McDavid by November 2014, but she made it clear that if the task force agreed on issues and could get started on them earlier, it would certainly do so.
She acknowledged that there is no silver-bullet solution to the problem, but she had faith that the task force could generate practical and effective solutions.
"We have these emerging problems," Nauser said. "It doesn't make us a bad community; it doesn't make us an unsafe community; it doesn't say that Columbia is falling behind. It just means that we're growing and that we have more problems like bigger cities have, and so it's just a part of that growth process, unfortunately."
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