Community leaders address poverty’s connection to crime in Columbus

Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 9:11 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) - Columbus wrapped up a record year for homicides in the city.

As the community looks for answers, many say ending the surge of violence in Columbus starts with addressing some key issues.

One of those issues being poverty.

“Now, you expect uneducated, poverty-based people in desperate financial positions to still flourish without the resources to do so,” said Christopher Brown, founder of Courage to Change.

Brown, a former gang member, and community leader says children fending for themselves get desperate.

He said in areas like the south side of Columbus where crime is present, poverty is not far away.

According to Reggie Lewis with Cure Violence, an organization tracking violent crimes in the city, nearly 20 percent of Muscogee County residents live in poverty and 30 percent of those are children.

“Poverty really leads to other adverse conditions in the community that were tied to violence and other things that we are faced with,” said Reggie Lewis with Cure Violence.

While crime is a choice, poverty is not.

Jerome Lawson, who admits at one time in his life he was no stranger to crime, said children are resulting to survival in order keep their heads above water.

“Now, these people fending for themselves because of environment that doesn’t allow them to be a child any longer,” said Lawson.

And Brown says this can cause children to turn to crime.

“Some of the only meals come from when they go to school or they eat at a friend’s house.”

“So, in turn, they turn to petty thefts and drugs. Some turn to robbing, it just depends. And as they get older, it just seems like the crimes get worse,” said Brown.

Brown and Lawson say the solution starts with creating role models - something they both say used to be common in these areas that are now crime ridden.

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