GENE ROBERTSON: Columbia's violent crime resolution should be reconsidered

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:13 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Acquiring high community quality is a process, rather than a goal. To engage in this process one must make a determination of the state of the community. This means answering the questions of who, what, when, where, how and why the community exists. That will provide the a baseline.

One must next determine a direction it is seeking toward a perceived attainable action in which the community might engage. It must then assess its resources and determine if they can enable  the community to move in the direction of these actions in a given time frame.  It also means planning to address the challenges to the effort, which will surely come.

The Columbia City Council's Resolution No. R 149-13  is too obtuse for even Ph.D candidates who are full-time students to achieve in the expected time frame. Section 1 of the resolution proposes that the committee, which is meeting twice a month, determine the history, trends and current status of violent crime in Columbia with a study of various community strategies to decrease violent crime in 14 months.

Section 2 proposes an even more impossible task for this committee. The committee has entered its second month of its 14-month tenure. By now it should be apparent that the charge to the committee is unattainable. Maybe the wise thing for the committee to do would be to request that the resolution be revisited by the council and request that a more specific resolution be considered with reasonably-achievable outcome.

There is a need to address violent crime. The question is: Does R149 -13 rationally address that need? Addressing violent crimes in the city ought to be a serious, well-thought through effort rather than a political gimmick akin to the school board's World Cafe discussion method. A good beginning might be assessing the city resources available and their potential to impact what is being defined as violent crime in the city — i.e police, recreation, affirmative action and other relevant departments.

The university ought to be called upon for assistance, i.e., MU Office of Social and Economic Data Analysis, sociology, law and law enforcement training and other appropriate departments. After the city staff has met and devised possible strategies, they might then enlist help from a citizens committees. Council persons should not serve on citizen committees. Council persons ought to be providing oversight to citizen committees. Let's get serious if we want to address some well-defined aspect of violence or crime.

William E. "Gene" Robertson is a Columbia resident and a professor emeritus at MU. He writes an occasional column for the Missourian.

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