COLUMBUS, Ohio — As Columbus remains on pace for a record-breaking year for gun violence, city officials announced Thursday that $400,000 will be put toward programs to help curb the issue.
Mayor Andrew Ginther said the programs will be aimed at providing resources to youth adults in an effort to prevent them from getting involved with violence.
Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Jessica D'Varga explained the programs will offer behavioral health services, housing, transportation help, education and workforce assistance.
“Investment in our youth is truly an investment to the future of this city," D'Varga said.
Chief of Columbus Police Elaine Bryant said the level of violence the city and the country has been experiencing is "unacceptable."
"To the families shattered by this violence, you have my deepest sympathy," she said, adding the programs will stop "the intersection of young people and gun violence."
The initiatives follow the death of a Columbus city worker, Tearicka Cradle.
Cradle worked for the city for 11 years, according to Ginther. Police said she was found dead in her home over the weekend. Officials believe it was a home invasion.
Cradle was the city’s 111th homicide so far this year, according to Columbus police.
Last year, the city didn’t reach 111 homicides until late September, having only less than 70 homicides in mid-July of 2020, according to city data.
"I’m calling on our neighbors across the community to do their part," Ginther said, asking residents to report what they know and help where they can if they see youth at risk of getting involved in violence.
Ginther added the new programs are just the few first steps of more initiatives to come.
In early July, Ginther announced a partnership with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in an effort to combat gun violence.
The partnership is designed to collect and analyze data dealing with crime, guns, mass shootings and more to identify trends.
The announcement came a day after Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost confirmed two central Ohio shooting investigations involving officers have been completed and have been referred to the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office.
The first investigation referred was the death of Andrew Teague, 43, on March 8. The second is the shooting of Ma'Khia Bryant, 16, on April 20, which was referred to special prosecutors.
Over the last few months, Columbus has had a few mass shootings, including the one in Bicentennial Park on May 22. Seven people were injured and a 16-year-old girl was killed. Police are investigating, but no suspects have been identified.
“I've said it before. I will say it again, and I will keep saying it: Put the guns down," Ginther pleaded at a press conference following the shooting. He said the city is preparing for "a summer of violence."