“We need to go deeper:” Mayor Benjamin speaks about addressing gun crimes in 2020

Murders and gunshot victims rose in the City in 2019, say officials

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) –There have been a growing number of gun crimes in the city of Columbia, and the Mayor says it’s time to address what he calls a “public health crisis.”
And in Richland County, some techniques to help deescalate crime are already starting to make a difference throughout Richland county.

 With a growing number of gun crimes in his city, Mayor Steve Benjamin says it’s time to address what he calls a “public health crisis.”

Ever since he became the Mayor of Columbia back in 2010, Benjamin says his City Council has been making strides against gun crime in the city, but he also says more could be done to save lives.

“One by one, ordinance by ordinance, we’re working hard to keep illegal guns off the streets. We’ve led the country in that space,” Mayor Benjamin said.

Although the City Council has passed ordinances addressing guns over the last few years, gun crimes continue to happen more often.

Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said there were 25 murders and 85 gunshot victims last year.

Meanwhile in Richland County, there were six fewer murders in 2019 as opposed to 2018. 

Lt. Dominick Pagano of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department says one way officers are trained to de-escalate situations where someone has a gun is by using techniques like verbal judo.

“Through non-hands on types of techniques through verbal affliction, actually the way that you talk to people and the way that you present to people, and a lot of times, these people are very upset, they just want to be heard, and when they have a good, solid listening ear, you can calm things down just by being a positive, calming presence,” Lt. Pagano said.

Mayor Benjamin said over the last eight years, city funding for law enforcement has gone up 70%, but he says it will take more than just law enforcement to make a meaningful difference.

“It’s hard work, it’s not just going to take public safety professionals, 21st century public guardians like our police department, our sheriff’s department, and our solicitors. It’s going to take neighbors and neighborhoods and communities all stepping up to address this systemic public health crisis,” Mayor Benjamin said.

Back in September, the City Council passed two gun control ordinances. 

One would prevent people from possessing a firearm within 1000 feet of a school, while another would allow guns to be taken away from someone considered an “extreme risk.”

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