Columbus mayor addresses city’s crime issue in Chamber of Commerce-sponsored ‘State of the City’ event

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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – There is a crime problem and we’re ready to wake up from a year-long COVID-19 slumber: those are the two big takeaways from Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson’s April 6 State of the City address.

About 100 city leaders gathered at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center for the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce-sponsored event. It was the first time since the pandemic began that many of the city’s political, business, and military leaders gathered in the same room.

In his hour-long conversation with Chamber President Jerald Mitchell, Henderson did not back away from the crime question. With Sheriff Greg Countryman and Police Chief Freddie Blackmon in the crowd, Henderson acknowledged that the crime issue is front and center. There have been nearly two dozen homicides in the city, and Henderson said many of them fall into two categories, gang-related and domestic.

Henderson attributed gang violence to a “subculture that has evolved.” He said those involved “don’t respect the lives of others and too quick to pull the trigger.”

Henderson also said domestic violence must be dealt with. Almost 40 percent of the year’s homicides can be attributed to domestic disputes. Henderson said these problems can’t be solved by more police alone.

“If we had a police officer on every corner, those things would continue to happen,” he said. “Sadly, they start and end behind closed doors,” Henderson said.

Henderson said the relationship between law enforcement and the community is critical.

“We have got to try and reestablish trust in our law enforcement in every neighborhood. That’s been lost. The Chauvin trial is on every network,” Henderson said.

Henderson said the economic condition of the city is “pretty good” and believes the city’s economic health will remain strong coming out of the pandemic.

“I am convinced the state of the city is pretty good and we are going to come out of this with that momentum intact,” Henderson said.

It was Henderson’s second State of the City address. The 2020 event was cancelled because of the COVID crisis.

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