COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — With the recent uptick in violence around Columbus, city council board members are gearing up for continued discourse on how to combat the issue.
After the Feb. 19 shooting, Lakebottom Park hasn’t been the same for Midtown residents and other patrons that visit regularly.
The big question now for many in the community: What are city officials doing to combat all of the violence?
Lakebottom Park is known as one of the most utilized parks in Columbus. In recent weeks, gunfire has infiltrated the park, leaving families worried they might be caught in the crossfire. Columbus City Councilor Walker Garrett represents Midtown residents in District 8 and says he shares the same concerns as his constituents.
“I don’t know if I feel comfortable walking my baby at the park anymore,” said Councilor Garrett. “My wife doesn’t want me to take him to the playgrounds, and that’s just unacceptable for one of the community’s most beautiful gems to be the place parents are concerned for their children to go.”
According to Councilor Garrett, the surge of violence in District 8 is only a portion of what’s happening across the Fountain City. Within the first two months of 2023, over 10 officers resigned from the Columbus Police Department.
Councilman Garrett credits the officer shortage and retention issue in Columbus partly to miscommunication and low morale within the department.
“When Chief Boren was here, we had 36 officers on the street and we can do that,” said Councilor Garrett. “It’s just in this environment right now, people are afraid to be that officer. So we have to make it financially lucrative enough for the people who are putting themselves in gunfire. I mean, those are our first responders. We have to pay them more than the norm. I mean, that’s just the way it is.”
Some of the ideas Councilman Garrett is proposing to his colleagues are moving police substations into affordable housing developments and offering retention bonuses to police officers, encouraging them to stay in Columbus.
The City Council is set to have their next meeting on March 14. Chief Blackmon is expected to present the police department’s budget to the council.
For those of you who missed the last city council meeting, the heated two hour discussion included topics like safety concerns and the leadership of Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon. Click here to view the livestream video of the city council meeting from Feb. 28.