COLUMBUS, Ga. — City leaders in Columbus are paying attention to the city’s crime rate, saying it could negatively affect efforts to attract companies and create more jobs.
A group of consultants who select sites for companies recently gave the community high marks for many aspects of economic development, said Brian Anderson, CEO of the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce.
But they also told Columbus officials that it could miss out on projects because its crime numbers are so high, The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported .
The consultants “gave us all good, high marks in many, many areas, and then turned around and basically said, ‘Your crime numbers, if anybody does research on your community based on what they can get off the Internet, you could get d-listed for projects because your crime number is so high,” Anderson said.
“That was a wake-up call for the business community — that not only is this hurting families, hurting individuals, creating law enforcement and cost-to-city type of concerns, now we also know the numbers themselves could negatively impact our ability to recruit companies and more jobs to the community,” he said. “So we have to work on it if we’re going to be competitive.”
Based on information from the FBI’s uniform crime reports for 2015, Anderson provided crime data to the chamber of commerce.
“The overall crime rate in Columbus is 79 percent higher than the average of crimes committed in Georgia,” according to the information. “It is also 113 percent higher than the national average.”
Its violent crime rate is 47 percent higher than the Georgia average and 49 percent higher than the national average, the Ledger-Enquirer reported.
Homicides spiked to 23 in 2016, the newspaper reported.
So far in 2017, Columbus has had 33 homicides, according to Coroner Buddy Bryan.
At least 33 percent of the homicides so far this year are drug-related, Columbus police Maj. Gil Slouchick told the newspaper.
Anderson said he believes job-training, educational initiatives, greater access to employment and economic development, are all a part of the solution. He’s a proponent of criminal justice reform that gives ex-offenders a second chance. Efforts to reach youths, caught up in crime, are also important.
“So going forward it has become a more elevated conversation among the chamber board, Columbus 2025, across business leadership,” he said. “We’re having conversations trying to figure out what’s going on, where can efforts be made, and who’s supposed to do it.”