Sheriff, mayor talking to gang members in an effort to curb Columbus crime

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Columbus officials addressed the city’s crime problem in an afternoon news conference. 

And a big part of that problem is street gangs.

Muscogee County Sheriff Greg Countryman says the first thing that has to happen to control the gang problem in Columbus is to understand the language of the street. 

“First of all, we need to understand that violence is the language,” he told News 3 after the news conference.

And Countryman is attempting to do that by meeting with gang members. He had one of those meetings yesterday. 

“What we are doing is communicating with the gang community,” he said. “Because if we realize if we have a problem, the best way to deal with that problem is to deal with that gang culture.” 

Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson has watched Countryman work the gang issues in his first month on the job. 

“We got a sheriff who is boots on the ground, man,” Henderson said. “As soon as he started, he’s been running. He’s meeting with some of the folks who might actually be connected with some of the folks causing all this mayhem.” 

Now, Henderson is going to follow suit. He plans to sit down with three gang members later this week. 

“It was set up with a pastor here in town who asked if I would be willing to sit down with three young men who were involved in gangs,” Henderson said. “I said absolutely. I am going to sit and listen.” 

And it may be similar to what Countryman has been hearing 

“What I can tell you is that there is a concern among everyone in the community is that the main issue is the lack of opportunity that’s out there,” Countryman said. “And we have to understand that there are some people in gangs that don’t want to be in gangs. That were forced to be in gangs. So, a lot of this has to do with survival for them.” 

There have been 12 homicides in Columbus in the seven weeks into 20-21. Nine of those are murders. Two are under investigation as self-defense and one as an accident. 

Police Chief Freddie Blackmon said there is only one way to solve this problem.

“We need all hands on deck,” he said. “The Columbus Police Department and the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office can not do this alone.” 

Flanked by the mayorSOT, sheriff, city manager and others, Blackmon repeated the phrase “All hands on deck” three times during Tuesday’s news conference. 

By all hands, Blackmon was specific. 

“We need the community,” he said. “Non-profit agencies, mental health services, the faith-based community wand all others to get involved.” 

This police homicide chart tells the story. There have been 12 homicides in Columbus in the seven weeks into 20-21. Nine of those are murders. Two are under investigation as self-defense and one as an accident. 

Three of the murders have been connected to gang activity. And look for police to focus on known criminal areas. 

“In doing so, we will target hotspots that have been identified by our crime analysts,” Blackmon said.

Blackmon stuck to his message. 

“Columbus belongs to all of us,” the chief concluded. “We need all hands on deck.” 

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