Poverty and Crime Linked in Columbia
COLUMBIA - Several recent shootings in Columbia have sparked new discussions about crime in the city. Some community leaders said in order to help resolve the problem, residents may need to look at poverty, one of the root causes of crime.
Last week Calvin Marshall spent an evening at McKee Park at a candlelight vigil to remember his grandson, Treveon Marshall, who was shot and killed there.
"I've been seeing a lot of crime, and it's getting a lot worse. I've never seen it like this before. We went from fights in the park to shootings," Marshall said.
He feels crime often affects families and people who already have a tough time getting by. "I think not having jobs, some neighborhoods not having the park to play in, not having mentors, they have to have people that they can look up to and be there for them," he said.
Timothy Rich with the Heart of Missouri United Wy agrees that poverty and crime are strongly related.
"People tend to turn to crime, young people turn to crime when they don't have adult role models that are really working with them. They don't have intact families. They don't have enough to eat, a place to sleep," said Rich.
People who live in poverty also often become victims of crime. A U.S. Department of Housing and Uban Dvelopment report shows low income, single parent homes often become targets for criminals because they seem vulnerable.
Love INC, a service group in Columbia, found when someone in poverty is arrested for a crime, they often find it more difficult to find a job because of their criminal record. That record then makes it harder to climb out of poverty.
The latest U.S. Census numbers show 22.9 percent of Columbia residents live in poverty compared to 14.3 percent of people statewide.
"If we continue to turn a blind eye to this, and if we continue throughout our community to think it's their kids not our kids and be apathetic, the fact of the matter is it's coming to our neighborhood," Rich said.
Marshall thinks providing mentors and work opportunities for teens and young adults who live in poverty could keep them from getting involved in crime, and he hopes it could keep other families from having to experience the loss he's now trying to process.