CPD reports violent crime increase thus far in 2021, including nonfatal shootings

Published: Oct. 26, 2021 at 8:49 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Violent crime is on the rise in Columbia, according to new data from the Columbia Police Department. The latest numbers show that through October 24, there’s been an 8% increase in violent crime compared to the same period in 2020 (January 1 – October 24).

This tracks with national and statewide trends. Gun violence increased sharply in 2020 nationwide, and the trend has continued into this year.

On Monday, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel spoke about high crime rates. He said murders are up 51% statewide in the last five years, which he attributed to drugs and increased gun usage.

In the state capital, Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook said violent crimes in the city are committed by a small group of individuals, pocketed primarily in North Columbia. That’s where CPD has concentrated its technology and community engagement efforts.

“I can say here what I think has directly contributed to systemic violent crime is the proliferation of illegal guns on the street,” he said.

Overall crime is trending down by 4% in the city for 2021.

Columbia saw a 24% reduction in homicides last year. This year, though, there is currently the same number of homicides, 19, as there were all of last year. Of those homicides, 11 have been due to gun crimes.

CPD statistics also show an increase in aggravated assaults. There have been 616 to this point in 2021, a 10% increase over the 559 that had occurred through October 24, 2020.

Chief Holbrook said the department’s focus is on the increase in nonfatal shootings. There have currently been 65 in 2021.  Officers primarily do not get cooperation on these cases.

“And that’s because if somebody survives that shooting and they’re walking and talking and not in a hospital, they’re going to respond by street justice,” he said. “And we know that that’s a shooting cycle that we have to disrupt, meaning if you’re the victim of a non-fatal shooting, you’re going to in turn retaliate with a shooting. We put a lot of our efforts through technology and investigative emphasis on disrupting that shooting cycle and identifying our prolific offenders.”

Among these efforts is gun seizures. The number of gun seizures in Columbia has trended upward since 2016 when 498 guns were seized. There were 852 seizures in 2020, and have been 631 so far this year. Chief Holbrook expects that number to reach or exceed 2020 levels.

This coincides with the use of ShotSpotter, a series of sensors that covers a seven-square-mile area, primarily in North Columbia. This technology alerts CPD when gunshots are detected, which can lead to faster response times and more evidence collection.

“The placement of ShotSpotter is data-driven,” Holbrook said. “It’s where the majority of our violent crime occurs. The frequency of that crime historically looking over years is what drove where we had that equipment installed.”

CPD became the first department in the state to utilize this technology in May 2019. According to the department, ShotSpotter complements the city’s ongoing efforts to curtail gun violence through its Crime Gun Intelligence Unit.

RELATED STORY | Columbia police unveil new technology alerting officers to gunfire

Holbrook said the issue of gun violence continues to be one the department addresses with urgency by leveraging technology.

“ShotSpotter has put us on shooting scenes very quickly that has led to gun seizures, but also focusing on our prolific offenders, specifically focusing on them strategically on disrupting these shooting cycles, meaning we put investigators on these individuals has led to a lot of seizures of weapons from them,” he said.

CPD urges citizens to call Crimestoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC if they witness any crime. They rely on help from the community, particularly following ShotSpotter alerts.

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