Anti-Violence Task Force: More Research, Youth Input

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COLUMBIA - In the first meeting of the Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence, several members expressed the need for more youth to get involved in the process. Because the task force will be focusing on youth for a good portion of it's meetings, many task force members wanted to hear from the youth themselves. Task force member Lorenzo Lawson said he even lobbied to put youth on the task force as members during the selection process.

Members also expressed a need to see research and data about crime and violence both on a national level and local level. Several stated they wanted to make sure that race didn't play a part while deciding the issues.

"It's not particular color we're dealing with here," said task force member Dave Thomas.

The task force is co-chaired by Third Ward Councilman Michael Trapp and Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser. The mayor proposed and the city council approved the task force during its meeting on August 5.

The task force now begins work after a violent summer in Columbia that saw more than a dozen shootings since May. Those shootings claimed the lives of three people. Two were 25-year-olds, the third a 17-year-old.

KOMU 8 News talked to Tyree Byndom before the task force meeting on Wednesday. He is one of the 13 community members serving alongside Nauser and Trapp.

"Now we can have this conversation together to figure out and not to point a finger at thugs or crime or gangs," said Byndom. "But to see the reality of our community. Anybody that goes to jail is coming right back to this community. We have a chance to be a leader in this country to find solutions and to come together as a community. Really, the sky is the limit."

Michael Trapp said he thought the task force got off to a good start during its first meeting Wednesday.

"We kind of identified how we were going to break down this massive issue of violence," said Trapp. "And how we're going try to understand and what kind of process we as a group of citizens are going to do to bring some solutions."

The task force is scheduled to meet again at 5:30 p.m. on September 11 and September 25 at City Hall. As soon as meeting agendas are available they can be found on the city's website, gocolumbiamo.com.

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