Mayor Announces $400,000 in New Funding for Initiatives to Reduce Violent Crime
Mayor Andrew Ginther has announced $400,000 in funding for two crime reduction programs led by Franklin County Municipal Court Judge Jessica D’Varga and Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack.
The programs are “designed to ensure public safety and reduce recidivism by providing support and resources to help mostly non-violent offenders successfully navigate and emerge from their time in the criminal justice system,” according to a press release from the Mayor’s Office.
“We cannot and will not accept rising crime rates as our new normal,” said Mayor Ginther. “We must continue to address this issue from every angle, which includes working to educate and reform our neighbors who engaged in criminal behavior. This is a community-wide effort, and the partnerships we are supporting represent the kind of [innovative] and thoughtful actions that are needed to build a safer, more resilient Columbus.”
The city is allocating $200,000 for the Unleashing Potential program in Judge D’Varga’s courtroom, which will provide transformative justice for young adults with moderate to high risk of recidivism.
Participation in the program generally lasts one year or longer and includes access to behavioral health services, trauma-informed care, parenting support, education and workforce development as well as other public assistance resources.
Upon completion, a participant’s case is resolved according to a negotiated agreement, which may include reduced or dismissed charges.
“This program will provide support and stability to our justice-involved 18-25-year-olds, setting them up for success through individualized case management plans that will greatly reduce the chance that they will come back into our court system and eliminating barriers to their achievement,” said Judge D’Varga. “Investing in our youth is an investment in this community that I believe will make a meaningful and long-term impact for our city.”
The Gun Violence Reduction Initiative in the County Prosecutor’s Office will also receive $200,000 for an expansion. The program seeks to decrease illegal gun possession and resulting gun violence.
Franklin County is currently trending toward 1,200 illegal gun possession cases in 2021, a 67% increase over 2015, according to the Mayor’s Office.
The allocated funding will help the County Prosecutor’s Office expand its personnel to administer illegal gun possession cases more effectively, which are up 31% over 2015 levels and far exceed other counties’ caseloads, per the Mayor’s Office.
Prosecuting attorneys will determine on a case-by-case basis whether a misdemeanor charge or probation may be warranted instead of a harsher sentence, to avoid negatively impacting future employment and other opportunities permanently.
“Franklin County Prosecutor Gary Tyack’s Gun Unit assesses every case with an eye toward tailoring a result that will assist those who are at risk so that they do not become a danger to the community, that will protect the public from those who are already a danger to the community and that will allow those who pose no danger to the community to resolve their case without a significant negative impact on their lives,” said Gun Unit Director John Gripshover.
City Council will vote on the legislation on Monday, July 26.