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Group focuses on community, youth, crime prevention


Jason Browne



A community taskforce formed in June with the overall goal of addressing violent crime in Columbus and Lowndes County is refining its focus. 


The next step, according to Columbus Ward 5 City Councilman Karriem, is reaching out to community members to provide some feedback. 


"We''re hoping to get direction on what they perceive as problems and solutions. We''re trying to bring everyone to the table," said Karriem. 


Those community stakeholders identified to be interviewed include elected officials, pastors and religious leaders, school officials, youth services providers and business leaders. 


During a June 28 meeting at the Columbus Public Library, 19 members of the Crime Prevention Task Force divided into three committees: Youth and Crime Prevention, Community Policing and Neighborhood Watch. 


Furthermore, two members were selected to represent the task force as spokespersons. Karriem will represent the Lowndes County Minority Leadership Class, and Lowndes County Administrator Ralph Billingsley will represent the community. Karriem and Billingsley will also coordinate future task force meetings. 


The Minority Leadership Class initiated the Crime Prevention Task Force project partially in response to a recent rash of murders and violent crimes in Columbus. 


The various committees will identify who and how to approach when the task force reconvenes July 19 at the library. 


Karriem says each committee will tackle a crucial aspect of crime prevention. The Youth committee will work to find ways of influencing young people before they''re caught up in a cycle of violence and attempting to mentor those who have already been touched by violence or crime.  


The Community Policing committee will address the relationship between citizens and law enforcement. 


"The community and the police have to build relations. Police have to get out of the car and talk (to people). They can''t just ride by," said Karriem. 


The Neighborhood Watch committee will focus on establishing greater awareness, concern and cooperation among citizens. 


Finally, the task force will create a fundraising component to bring a crime prevention expert to Columbus to offer a three-day training session on how to establish and refine the existing goals. Karriem is counting on churches and the business community to provide the bulk of the $4,000 needed to bring Daniel Kellar, executive director of the American Crime Prevention Institute in Louisville, Ky., to Columbus.




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