Columbia leaders expand violent crimes task force

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COLUMBIA - After record-breaking violence in 2019, Columbia leaders are looking to curb gun-related crime in the city.

Last year, Columbia endured 12 gun-related homicides, five of which happened in September alone.

At the time, Columbia Mayor Brian Treece described it as a "hurricane of violence hovering over our community."

On Monday afternoon, city leaders announced they are expanding a violent crime task force. The task force is made up of four Columbia police officers, one MU police officer, two ATF agents and four Boone County sheriff's deputies. Law enforcement officials said the changes have been in the works for months, before the string of homicides in September.

“Through the use of intelligence, crime gun tracing, and old fashion police work, our mission will be to identify trigger pullers and those that provide them with firearms and bring them to justice," ATF Assistant Special Agent in Charge Frank Kelsey said. "We will make our neighborhoods more safe and ensure that those who use firearms to further their criminal activity are held accountable.” 

Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones said the department had to rearrange several positions to provide officers to the task force. The department pulled two officers from the street crimes unit and one officer from the patrol unit.

"We have an opportunity to use these combined resources as a force multiplier," Jones said. "It gives us the opportunity to address violent crime in an efficient and effective way using intelligence based methods. It allows our officers who work in our neighborhoods to focus on their neighborhood outside of big incidents."

The task force will be based out of the Boone County Sheriff's Department, but Chief Jones said the agents and officers will be spending most of their time out in the field.