COLUMBIA - Data from the Columbia Police Department shows the number of reports involving guns has increased during the past five years. Reports of armed robberies with guns, assaults with guns and shots fired increased by nearly 60% from 2008 to 2012.
Columbia Police Public Information Officer Latisha Stroer said the department doesn't know why the numbers are increasing. She said 2011 saw the most incidents involving guns. And frequent shots fired incidents in early 2012, like the ones at Chucky Cheese's and the old Boone Tavern, prompted the department to get more officers on the streets and start initiatives like Silence the Violence.
There are a few theories about why gun crime has been on the rise. Community Activist Lorenzo Lawson helped start the Silence the Violence movement last summer. He said the conversation about gun crime has to start with the city's youth.
"Men and women that are committing these crimes they have that in common that they have either been suspended or dropped out of school," said Lawson. "And it makes it very difficult for them to do something positive for them like earning money. And I believe that a lot of it is tied to economics, drugs and drug territories."
Another theory is the city's increase in population. According to the US Census, over those past ten years Columbia's population has increased by nearly 30 percent. According to the Columbia Police Department, the city has seen people migrate to this area from metropolitan regions like Kansas City, Saint Louis, and even Memphis and New Orleans.
"There are pockets around town where certain things happen," said Columbia Police crime analyst Jerry East. "It's not just one area anymore. So as we grow and as Columbia grows and expands there will be some thing that are more associated with a big city than with a small town."