Columbia city leaders hold crime press conference
Officials disagree on whether crime is an issue in the city
After a rash of shootings in recent days, Columbia city leaders held a news conference Wednesday afternoon to discuss the crimes and crime prevention strategies.
City Manager Mike Matthes, Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton and all City Council members attended the news conference in City Council chambers.
Matthes began the meeting highlighting how public safety is the city's No. 1 job and how police have caught 100 percent of the criminals they were looking for. However, police say they are still looking for the trigger man in the deadly Conley Road shooting.
At the event, Chief Ken Burton told the media he will propose a curfew initiative for juveniles in the city.
"There is no reason why a child under the age of 17 should be downtown at one in the morning," he said.
Burton proposed a two-year trial for the curfew, which could be rescinded if it is shown not to work. The chief has no proposal written, but will ask for CPD's and the city's help for drafting a possible curfew.
Later in the news conference, Councilman Michael Trapp said a curfew will have no effect on crime and may increase crime rates in the city.
"We're safe, things are okay," said Trapp. He believes a few high-profile cases have painted the wrong picture for the community.
Councilwoman Laura Nauser says the city needs to admit there is a growing gang problem, with at least five-to-six active gangs currently operating in Columbia.
Nauser questioned other city leaders as to why a news conference was held after a single shooting downtown, but not when two teenagers were shot to death in 2012.
Burton also gave updates on recent crimes including the shooting death of Anthony Unger on Conley Road. The police chief said the shooting was drug-related and there are two suspects in custody, with additional arrests "possible and likely."
As for the shootings on Bodie Drive and in downtown Columbia, Burton said the victims are uncooperative but the investigations are still ongoing.
Chief Burton addressed the downtown police unit, which was not operational the weekend of the shooting at 10th and Broadway. He said the unit worked the previous six weekends in a row and had "well-deserved weekend off."
According to him, the unit would not have been able to prevent the shooting even if they were working.
Police officials had previously told ABC 17 News the downtown unit had been on hiatus, instead of having the weekend off.
Burton told the media he doesn't mind when "thugs" shoot at each other, but he does mind when they subject others to the violence.
Mayor Bob McDavid said the police department will handle the crimes and he has faith in Chief Ken Burton's ability, but Columbia needs to address its anti-violence initiatives to combat criminals.
"This city will not tolerate a culture of lawlessness," he said.
McDavid said the community needs to hold an intervention with juveniles and find out what teens are doing and where they are at night.
Several council members support the addition of officers to the police force as well as increased downtown patrols, but will need to analyze next year's budget.
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