later, another man was shot and killed, on the East Side.
Five homicides in four days. As of Monday, 28 homicides were on the books in Columbus for 2018.
Yet between April 11-16, 2017, no additional homicides occurred. The count remained at 36.
This month in Massachusetts, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health held a panel discussion on gun violence. The impetus was the renewed debate after mass shootings like the one that occurred Feb. 14 at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
During that discussion, one of the panelists raised a point often forgotten, dismissed or ignored.
“We talk about mass shootings, and that takes up so much of our bandwidth, but this problem is really driven in large part by what I would call ‘day-to-day’ shootings that are happening on our city streets,” said Mike McLively, senior staff attorney and Urban Gun Violence Initiative director at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
In a discussion hosted last week by Ohio State University’s College of Public Health and John Glenn College of Public Affairs, a gun violence researcher from Baltimore, Maryland, covered some of the same ground.
Afterward, I asked Cassandra Crifasi, an assistant professor at the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, how Baltimore’s Safe Streets program was going.
Safe Streets is a databased violence intervention program that seeks to disrupt the cycle of violence just as epidemiologists seek to halt the spread of a disease. Outreach workers keep tabs on, and intervene in, the lives of those most prone to commit violence. Research has shown it can work if properly administered.
I had written about Safe Streets in 2011 and asked Crifasi if she thought the program still showed promise. In the years since I visited a Safe Streets location in East Baltimore, the program has weathered controversy and money problems. But recently that city’s mayor pledged to expand the program to more neighborhoods and provide a steady budget. Such a commitment from City Hall seemed like good news, Crifasi said.
Last fall, as the killing in Columbus showed no signs of slowing, Mayor Andrew J. Ginther announced plans to increase police bike and foot patrols, set aside money for various safety-related and youth job programs, and provide crisis-intervention training for police officers. The Columbus Department of Health hired a part-time epidemiologist to collect data on central Ohio gunshot victims and to work in tandem with a new Violent Crime Review Group, which is tasked with evaluating each Columbus homicide to see how it might have been prevented.
The danger is that as the killings ebb, so does the outrage. When that happens, ideas like these can die on the vine.
Ginther said last fall, “We can’t do this by ourselves. No one person can do it all.”
A fair statement. Fair, too, was something Crifasi said, about what it takes to make a program like Safe Streets succeed.
“You have to have a champion.”