Task force looks ahead to solving Columbia's violence problem

Wednesday, August 28, 2013 | 10:33 p.m. CDT; updated 10:53 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Michael Trapp, co-chair for the Columbia Violence Task Force, speaks at the group's first meeting Wednesday at the Daniel Boone City Building.

COLUMBIA — The first meeting of the Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence was more about introductions and procedural issues than anything else. But members of the task force agreed those steps were necessary to lay the groundwork for future solutions.

Some on the 13-member panel said although the task force's final recommendation isn't due until November 2014, they'd like to address some issues sooner if a consensus could be reached.

After the meeting, co-chairman and Second Ward Councilman Michael Trapp said the Columbia City Council recognizing there is a gang problem would be a great place to start.

"I think gangs lend themselves to addressing early in the task force," Trapp said. He added that co-chair and Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser suggested city government formally recognize Columbia has a gang problem.

"And we do," Trapp said. "If people feel we need to acknowledge that, it's something we can recommend that City Council could do that we can act on quickly."

The task force approved two motions during the hour and a half meeting. The first motion tasked each member with forming research questions and proposals to discuss at the next meeting. They also agreed to actively involve youth in the task force's meetings.

During the public comment section, a community member said he would have liked to see a success story from an incarcerated youth, which prompted the group to recognize that though the task force is specifically targeting youth and their role in community violence, there were no young people on the panel.

"We don't think like they think, and we need their input," said Lorenzo Lawson, a task force member and executive director for the Youth Empowerment Zone. "If they buy into it, they have responsibility and ownership in the process, and that makes it successful."

Although the public, and to some extent members of the task force, would like to see action immediately, Trapp cautioned after the meeting that resolutions to all of the problems stemming from community violence would not come swiftly, if at all.

"I don't think these problems lend themselves to quick solutions," Trapp said. "We can make platitudes about how things ought to be this way, but to get into practical policy recommendations, I don't think there's going to be that much stuff that's really easy."

Twelve of the 13 task force members were in attendance. They agreed to meet every other week instead of once a month for now but said once focus groups and subcommittees form, full task force meetings would probably go back to monthly.

The next meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Daniel Boone City Building.

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