Columbia officials tackle violent crime with national coalition

Published: May. 18, 2023 at 11:57 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - On Thursday, a national coalition for public safety partnered with local officials to address violent crimes in Columbia.

The takeaway from a day’s long forum across a church and a social club is assurance that social ills are recognized and being addressed in the capital city.

The public discussion was organized by the Public Safety Solutions for America (PSSA), a Washington DC-based coalition working to reduce crime in major cities across the nation.

One organizer said PSSA chose the Midlands to feature Columbia’s own Serve & Connect non-profit. CEO and founder Kassy Alia Ray established the mission after her husband, Forest Acres Police officer Greg Alia, was shot and killed while on duty in 2015.

Ray told WIS her non-profit’s mission is to foster positive change through sustainable police and community partnerships in Columbia. This is a practical example of the principles PSSA is pushing.

Thursday night’s panel at the Palmetto Club on Sumter St. featured Columbia Mayor Daniel Rickenman, Columbia Police Chief (CPD) William “Skip” Holbrook, and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez in his capacity as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Moderated by Ja’Ron Smith, PSSA’s founder and former advisor to President Donald Trump, the panel discussed an array of pits and peaks in Columbia and abroad. Topics were included but not limited to infrastructure issues in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods paired with plans to remedy said issues.

“We’re not perfect but we’re damn close,” said Mayor Rickenmann. “We’re investing in every one of our departments. We’re investing in technology, training, equipment, and parks. We’re spending more money on parks and outdoors than we ever have so that we can improve the quality. I mean, we have parks that haven’t been touched in 25 years.”

Rickenmann’s sentiments were echoed by Chief Holbrook who agreed that creating opportunity for Columbia’s youth could mitigate senseless crime across the map.

“That is our most vulnerable population. I frequently say we’re losing a generation through gun violence. We have got to create some opportunity for a young adult to focus on positive things other than criminal activity, possessing guns, or not pursuing education or trade. I think that’s our challenge. Engaging in young adults,” said Holbrook.

The PSSA’s visit to Columbia is its second stop in a ten-city tour across America.

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