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Columbia mayor proposes new office to address community violence


At Monday night's City Council meeting, Columbia Mayor Barbara Buffaloe proposed a new office for violence prevention.

The decision comes after a 3-year-old was shot in Columbia on Sept. 24. Buffaloe was on a bike ride with her daughter when she received the news.  

“I got that phone call, right when I got that phone call from the city manager that a three-year-old had been shot and was dead like that, obviously, for me it was I'm done talking about this and I'm ready for action,” Buffaloe said. 

The office would be made up of public safety officials, community programs and neighborhood leaders. 

“What spurred it on... more was some of the activities we have had over the summer,” Buffaloe said. “Realizing who is in charge of the violence prevention? We know it's a vast subject... It's not just about crime. It's not just about a police response. Some of it's related to issues from poverty, youth violence, or just dealing with all those different issues. And I realized that we needed somebody to convene the groups working in this space, but we don't have something like that. And so I've talked to the city manager and my fellow council members about this potential of a convener housed within the city manager's office.”

Columbia already has some safety groups in place to deal with community violence such as the Neighborhood Watch. However, Buffaloe wanted to place an extra emphasis on reducing gun deaths in Columbia, which is why she wanted to get the city manager involved to elevate its importance. 

Buffaloe said she had been working on the plan for over a year, a process that included conversations with the interim police chief and studying similar offices across the country such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, Kansas City and even Davenport Iowa to craft this office. 

“The Missouri Foundation for Health has been doing some conversations around the state around firearm violence and kind of like, what can we do to prevent it,” Buffaloe said. “There's a good model in the St. Louis County area, where groups all came together multiple jurisdictions and kind of form something similar to what we're proposing, so it'd be interesting to see kind of how their data has shown.” 

One roadblock to her plan is funding. The 2024 budget was already approved last month which means there would have to be an amendment to the budget to fund this office. 

“We do have money in the budget for a community violence assessment,” Buffaloe said. And the question has always been well, who's going to do that assessment? And so this is actually a perfect kind of that can kind of come together and the assessment can be part of this job.”

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Mitchell Kaminski

Mitchell Kaminski is from Wheaton, Illinois. He earned a degree in sports communication and journalism from Bradley University. He has done radio play-by-play and co-hosts a Chicago White Sox podcast.


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