COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence held a full-day retreat Saturday to determine common reasons for violent crimes. The group decided on twelve reasons, but three stood out to the group - drugs, a mistrust of police and employment.
"My whole triangle of this culture is drugs, conflict and miscommunication," Christopher Haynes of Phoenix House said.
"I almost think if you pulled the drugs out of those situations, that person might not have gotten killed," Dan Hanneken of in2action, a rehabilitation house in Columbia, said. "If you pulled the miscommunication out of that situation, that person might not have gotten killed. If you remove the conflict out of that situation, that person might not have gotten killed. And that's about the closest I've seen to targeting the violent offender."
Jerry Taylor and Steve Calloway examined 34 recent instances of violent crime in Columbia. They determined drugs played a role in the crime in a majority of them.
The group, headed by Michael Trapp and Laura Nauser of the Columbia City Council, said the public's mistrust of police led to violent crime. Instead of talking to police, Jerry Taylor of MFA Oil said, victims of crime will often take the matters into their own hands.
"I keep going back to that," Taylor said. "Why, why won't people talk to police, why will people settle it themselves? How do we change that? How do we change it so that people have trust in the system?"
The NAACP's Pamela Hardin said police should be more proactive members of the community to gain trust. She said police sometimes misconstrue the facts of a situation in police reports, as well.
"If you're honest, I have no choice but to trust that you're going to be honest and that what's going to happen is fair," Hardin said.
Employment took much of the group's discussion Saturday afternoon. The task force wanted to analyze if their was fair access to jobs in Columbia, especially for those previously convicted of a crime. Tyree Byndom, a community activist, said many people resort to selling drugs, or the "underground economy," because that's the trade they know best, and have a hard time finding a job elsewhere. The pressure to provide for families also contributes to people taking that route.
Mike Hayes, a former Columbia police officer, said there were plenty of available, unskilled jobs available for previous offenders, but many businesses now won't take a chance on hiring them.
The group also said adult and early childhood education could be improved to stop violence.
The task force will host public forums on its findings and decisions. As a group, the task force next meets May 8.