Community Leaders Give Their Opinion on Crime in Columbia
COLUMBIA - The group "Keep Columbia Safe" asked five community leaders their opinion on Columbia's safety at a meeting on Wednesday. "Keep Columbia Safe" was the group behind the campaign for video cameras downtown.
City council person Barbara Hoppe and city council candidates Michael Trapp, Bill Pauls, Bill Tillotson and Mike Atkinson attended the meeting. The moderator asked each person their opinion on various safety issues. They were asked if they would be in favor of a sales tax - like a parks and recreation tax - to fund public safety endeavors. Trapp and Atkinson both said they would not be in favor of raising additional taxes.
The group was also polled on their thoughts on civilian oversight on the review board and if they thought it had been successful. Trapp said civilian oversight is a good concept, but it hasn't lived up to its promises. Tillotson said it's a good thing to have because it is unrealistic to expect police officers to make the right decision every time considering the conditions and pressures they deal with. However, Tillotson said the board has a long way to go.
The council people gave their insight into whether Columbia has enough officers in their police department in relation to the population. Pauls said Columbia could always use more police officers. He said its easy to point the finger at the police department. He said the city can find the money, but questioned if it was a necessary expense. Trapp added that looking at the data, he didn't feel there was a need. Trapp said instead, more resources should be invested into training existing officers. He also said it would be more beneficial to coordinate a community response to fight crime.
Hoppe said the council had been adding additional officers to the police department as of 2009 to make sure it was a reflection of the growing population. She said the city's crime problems won't be solved by just throwing police officers at them. Atkinson added the ratio of police officers to population size has remained stable in the last decade.
Hoppe said she looked over recent statistics on Columbia's crime rate. She said crime in Columbia has remained stable or gone down in some areas. She said the statistics did not indicate that there has been a rise in crime here. She said there is a misconception about Columbia's safety.
Several people expressed a need for a community movement to combat crime in Columbia. Trapp said this can be as simple as getting to know your neighbors on your street.