Community members react to violent crimes task force announcement

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COLUMBIA - Monday's announcement that several Columbia leaders had expanded a violent crimes task force was a long time coming for many Columbia residents.

Rev. James Gray, from the Second Missionary Baptist Church in Columbia, said it should have happened "years ago."

"Your city's got to go through a lot of pain to really get to where we really need to be," he said. 

The task force is made up of four officers from the Columbia Police Department, an officer from MUPD, two agents from ATF, and four Boone County Sheriff's deputies.

Gray said the unification of the departments will be key to their success.

"This is about crime, about doing what's right," he said. "Putting everything else aside and saying let's make a difference together."

Columbia Police Chief Geoff Jones said the department had to move two officers from the street crimes unit and one officer from patrol to staff the task force. He said the benefits of having the task force will outweigh the costs to staffing.

"Our hope is that the overall impact, the increase in communication, will hopefully reduce some of the incidents that are requiring a lot of manpower to address on the street," Jones said.

Gray has been in contact with many of the families affected by violent crime in Columbia in the past year. He said they're excited leaders are taking action.

"This is the right direction to go in to find closure for them," he said. "It's also the right direction to go in to let people know that if you're going to do the crime, you're going to get caught, you're going to do the time."

Gray said he's glad leaders are committed to making the community safe.

"I know that some of the people that they're going to have working on this unit are so compassionate about what they do," he said. "They want to see our city safe, they want to see our county safe."

Chief Jones echoed that statement.

"I hope that people pay attention, that we're not going to put up with it anymore," he said. "We will be very focused on addressing these issues, case by case, every day."