COLUMBUS — There’s been a spike in violence this month in Columbus, with more shootings and homicides, including the shooting death of a 14-year-old in Linden on Wednesday and an 18-year-old June 16 on the South Side.
But Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said the city can’t police itself out of this crisis – that it has to be a community effort that includes public health and recreation initiatives.
That means in addition to police bike patrols that began Saturday in Linden, the Hilltop and the South Side, it also includes job programs, summer camps and Columbus Public Health workers who will meet with victims at the hospital to see what they need.
At a news conference Saturday afternoon at the Milo-Grogan Community Center, Ginther said it’s a community call to action.
He said homicides were up 40% this June compared with June 2019, and that felonious assaults with guns are up 244% this month when compared with last June.
“Gun violence is a public health crisis,” said Dr. Mysheika Roberts, Columbus health commissioner.
“Sadly, we continue to see the tragic loss of loved ones,” she said.
Columbus police said Saturday that they have arrested a 16-year-old and a 15-year-old, both males, in the shooting death of 14-year-old Nysier Terry in Linden on Wednesday night.
“We knew this was going to be a challenging summer,” Ginther said, exacerbated when the city had to cancel summer programs because of the coronavirus pandemic.
To try to deal with that, Ginther said $2 million in federal CARES money will help pay for summer camps that will begin in July. Nonprofits and some faith-based groups are interested in running those camps, Ginther spokeswoman Robin Davis said. They will have to adhere to coronavirus safety standards.
Also in July, city Recreation and Parks will begin another job-readiness program for young people ages 14-23.
Columbus Public Health will begin a pilot program with OhioHealth to provide social services at OhioHealth Grant Medical Center for victims of violence, from job training to housing help. Roberts said she needs to bring on more staff to do that.
Ginther also said the city will begin issuing permits for neighborhood block parties for up to 100 people.
Roberts said she signed off on that. Those receiving permits will be reminded that all should be wearing masks while social distancing, and that food should be individually wrapped. No punch bowls, she said.
The violent June came in the midst of protests and unrest following the Memorial Day death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for almost 9 minutes.
Charles Thompkins, who leads the Milo-Grogan Area Commission, said young people started contacting him when the protests started.
“I told them, ‘You are the change,’” Thompkins said.
“Change also means listening,” he said. “Things do not happen overnight.”
Ginther acknowledged that he has heard from area commissioners around the city concerned about police response times when many officers were Downtown dealing with protesters.
He said he plans to talk with police Chief Thomas Quinlan during the upcoming week about next steps.