Lack of mentors, 'no-snitch' culture contribute to violence in Columbia, say police, community

Sep 26, 2013

Credit Angela Pearson / KBIA

The Columbia Mayor's Task Force on Community Violence convened Wednesday evening to investigate community violence with help from the Columbia Police Department. 

The meeting addressed issues ranging from gang violence and crime to preventive community services.

Police officers said they are doing their best to prevent this from occurring with community policing. And they said that solving the problem of youth crime will require the involvement of the entire community.

“We are so close to losing somebody who is precious, someone who is completely innocent,” said Columbia Police Detective Logan. 

He said community policing is one of three main priorities for the department.

Police representatives also said one challenge with the anti-violence initiative is a lack of officers.  They said for the department to dedicate 30 percent of their time to community policing, the department would need to hire 35 more officers.

"Well that’s a lot of money per year that they could put into programs,” said Rev. Martin Hardin of the Second Baptist Church. Hardin said he'd like to see initiatives like better mentorship available to Columbia youth.

Task force members Pamela Hardin and Chris Campbell recommended more programs for youth to prevent initial criminal activity. Campbell also recommended an increase in police presence at schools in order to foster better relationships between students and officers. 

Police officers say the so-called "no snitch culture" poses an obstacle to their efforts. “It’s not just Columbia, this is a national issue that has gotten worse. You’re a snitch if you the tell police who shot you,” Logan said.

He says people often refuse to witness or aid police investigations because of a fear of backlash from their community. 

But Pamela Hardin said one reason for the no-snitch culture is a lack of trust between the community and the police. 

Columbia Public School officials will be invited to speak at the task force's next meeting, scheduled for October 10, to discuss truancy trends and to continue discussion on community violence.