COLUMBIA — Although members of the Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence had billed Saturday's work session as their first chance to make recommendations to the City Council, no action was taken during the six-hour meeting.
The task force came to a consensus on 12 common themes in regard to violent crime in Columbia, but it stopped short of making recommendations.
The Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence came to a consensus on 12 common themes that affect violent crime in Columbia:
• Prevalence of drugs
• Police Department's relationship with the community and community perception of the department
• Lack of adult basic education
• Lack of early-childhood programs and education
• Lack of economic opportunity, including good employment and youth employment
• Escalation of conflicts and relational disputes among people who know one another
• Lack of mediation and conflict resolution
• Not instilling in all our children pro-social attitudes and values and an ability to gain educational skills
• Gangs exist in Columbia, but it’s difficult to tell how much of a factor they are
• Males in their 20s are most likely to be involved with violent crime
• Almost all suspects of violent crime lack vocational skills
• Almost all suspects of violent crime had a previous criminal history
Michael Trapp, task force co-chair and Second Ward councilman, said he didn't know if there were many proposals that all the task force members could readily agree upon, though there seemed to be general agreement on a "ban the box" ordinance. The proposal would prevent the city from asking on an application whether a person seeking employment had been convicted of a felony. That question would instead be asked during an in-person interview. Private-sector jobs would not be affected.
Trapp said earlier in the meeting that the community would notice if the task force didn't take action Saturday.
However, members stressed the importance of homing in on the common themes, which are based on data the task force's four subcommittees have accrued in the past half-year.
Of the data generated by the task force, members found the information on drug use among suspects of violent crime in Boone County to be the most surprising. Task force member Dan Hannekin reported that 70 percent had severe or intensive drug problems.
"The presence of drugs is overwhelming," task force member Jerry Taylor said. "To somehow stop the drug thing is hugely center stage."
Laura Nauser, task force co-chair and Fifth Ward councilwoman, said that economic conditions appeared to be a secondary factor related to community violence, but task force member Pam Hardin disagreed.
"We can sit and say that's not a big issue, but I'm going to tell you now, if we do, we're going to come out of here with nothing because that is the No. 1 issue," Hardin said. "Unless we provide something not just for the youth but also for young men between the ages of 17 to 29 … we're just running in circles."
Another key theme is a lack of economic opportunity. Task force member Tyree Byndom said that in the 1950s, 5 percent of Columbia businesses were owned by black people, but that has dropped to 1 percent today. Hardin said it was easier in the 1970s than today for a black person to get a job.
The task force will seek community advice as it develops its recommendations to the council. Hardin, Byndom and task force member David Thomas will organize community forums called "Let's Talk About Violence." Dates and other details about the forums are expected to be set before the task force's next meeting May 8.