Columbia students voice concerns to city leaders

Mid-MO students tour Columbia City Hall

COLUMBIA, Mo. - Columbia 8th grade students got the chance to voice their concerns about crime from their points of view Friday afternoon. 

It's part of their curriculum for summer school covering city government. Students picks the topics that interest them the most, from homelessness to minimum wage.

Students asked a lieutenant with the Columbia Police Department several questions. 

Have you ever shot someone or ever been tased or pepper-sprayed?

Put those questions aside, though, and the 8th graders wanted answers to some serious issues.

City Manager Mike Matthes listened to students list off what concerned them the most about Columbia.

"If you vote, you're a citizen. If you don't you're a resident."

Marc Alexander, a teacher, said, "They feel then that they have a voice, and they should. A democracy only works if the citizenry is invested."

Those concerned with crime and violence met directly with Lieutenant Scott Young to discuss the problem.

"What is the problem? There's too much crime in Columbia, Missouri," said Young.

The students started with a presentation about Columbia crime rates and how to lower them.

Giselle Williams, a student, said, "I found it very interesting, and usually on the news they talk about a lot of crime and violence and how people are getting arrested."

One of their solutions was to have a crime and violence awareness program, and add more officers on the streets.

Young said, "We do need more police officers. Everyone has agreed to that. What the city government is trying to do right now is try and find a way to pay for that."

Their concerns are even more concerning to their teachers.

These are their lives. When they hear a gunshot and they don't know if it's a firework or not or that there's gang activity, this is something that they bring with them to their life outside of school and into school," said Alexander.

"There's somebody you're going to sit with in class this coming year that before I retire from being a police officer, he's going to be involved in a shooting or something stupid. And maybe, one of those classmates I mentioned that's going to be involved in violent criminal behavior, maybe one of them you can help make better choices. I would beg you to do that," said Young.

Students also met with Parks and Recreation about issues like skate parks and sidewalks. Some students even discussed Columbia's use of alternative energy resources. 

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