COLUMBIA, Mo. - The federal government will help Columbia bring on four more police officers to combat growing gun violence in town.
The Department of Justice awarded CPD with $500,000 to bring on four new officers. While the program only encourages departments hire post-September 11 military veterans, CPD says each one hired will be a veteran.
The department's application said the four new hires will help the Community Outreach Unit, CPD's dedicated community policing group formed in late 2015. The unit currently has six officers working in three target neighborhoods.
The grant will cover 75-percent of the new hires' base salary until 2019. The city will put up the rest of the money, $353,606, through the next three years. CPD wrote in its June application to the DOJ that the four new hires would help tackle "gun violence by juvenile and adult gang members, typically related to drug crimes."
The application details CPD's struggles to both keep up with calls for service and secure tax dollars to hire more officers to respond to them. The city saw a three percent increase in calls for service the last five years, while the staffing ratio of officers per 1,000 residents fell to 1.41. The DOJ recommends 2.5 officers for every 1,000 residents. Additionally, CPD competes with other agencies, like the fire department, Parks and Recreation and the municipal court for money in the general revenue, made up substantially of sales and property taxes.
The four new officers will assist the Community Outreach in creating relationships with neighborhood leaders in the midst of gang-related activity and gun crimes. Armed robberies have gone up nine percent since 2011. Aggravated assaults with guns went from 61 reports in 2014 to 162 the next year. By using different policing models, including partnerships with the Boys and Girls Club and Youth Community Coalition, they hope to find the root of violent crime.
"It is our goal to identify the conditions within the City that are allowing criminal activity to set up in our various communities and neighborhoods," the department wrote.