The mayors of Columbus and Phenix City along with representatives of the local faith community are asking people to gather at a “Stop the Violence Memorial Service” at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at the Columbus Civic Center.
Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson said people have been contacting her recently in the wake of a recent spate of homicides and other crimes, asking about holding marches or community meetings. Tomlinson said she decided to suggest a city-wide gathering to include as many people as possible.
“We’ve had some horrific and unexplainable things lately,” Tomlinson said. “A father allegedly stabbing loved ones and burning them. Young people shooting each other in what they apparently think of as some kind of shoot-‘em-up video. Just such incredibly reckless behavior, and it’s costing us our neighbors and people we care about.”
Tomlinson and Phenix City Mayor Eddie Lowe will attend as well as clergy from all parts of the city to offer prayers for solidarity, tolerance, love, respect, compassion and forgiveness, according to the event’s program.
Part of the reason for involving the faith community and other social service agencies is because the domestic nature of a lot of the violence the city is seeing is practically impossible for police to prevent, Tomlinson said.
“From a prevention standpoint, it’s difficult to pinpoint and put resources toward those kinds of things,” Tomlinson said. “Things like domestic violence are particularly difficult for law enforcement to deal with. They’re better dealt with by community organizations like Hope Harbor.”
Tomlinson said she has heard critics say that the city just needs to spend more money on law enforcement.
“I tell them we spend over $58 million a year on law enforcement,” Tomlinson said. “We spend more on law enforcement per capita than any other city in Georgia.”
Columbus spends just over $600 per person on public safety, according to a document released by the city. Among the other consolidated city-county governments, Athens/Clarke County spends about $360 per person, Augusta/Richmond County spends about $450 and Savannah/Chatham County spends about $470.
“If it were just about money, then you’d think these other cities would be having some real issues,” Tomlinson said. “We want to have a very frank and spiritual conversation about how we build a community that respects each other and has hope for the future.”