Black males account for 75% of the homicide victims in Columbus so far this year. Columbus Police report that as of July 8, out of 63 homicides, 42 of the victims were Black men or boys, while 10 were white males.
“Most of the crimes that are happening because… somebody did something to me,” says Pastor Frederick LaMarr of First Missionary Baptist Church. “It’s retaliation or somebody took something that belongs to me and I don’t know how to get it back.”
From his church on the on the Near East Side, LaMarr has been focusing on reducing crime for more than a decade. In November 2009, his church started organizing a march on the first Sunday of each month.
Several other organizations have since joined in the Ministries 4 Movement marches, which still happen monthly. Marr says more churches are developing their own marches.
“The church is the nucleus of the community, and when a community sees the church, because people got to always have someplace to go, and if they know the church is there, they can always go to the church and if the church is reaching out, it’s more invitational," LaMarr says.
Despite efforts to reach out to young people and offer solutions, LaMarr says guns continue to play a significant factor.
“Young people in the teenage and earlier years of 20s, they think the guns is the rights of passage, and as the rights of passage that everyone needs a gun and they don’t know how to deal with the frustration, that is caused by it,” LaMarr says.
Columbus Police have blamed the coronavirus pandemic and the months-long stay-at-home order for the city's hike in violence.
LaMarr acknowledges those may also contributed, saying that while people are shut indoors, frustration can build and arguments can escalate.
LaMarr says he supports Mayor Andrew Ginther’s stance on passing "common sense" gun laws. But he also understands there are limits under the Second Amendment, allowing lawful citizens to carry guns.
LaMarr says he would like to see more community programs focused on young people developed by local, state and federal governments, if they’re sustained.
“When people see you reaching out and you’re just not reaching out when something is bad, you’re continually reaching out, then that lets them know the sincerity on your part,” LaMarr says. “And when they see sincerity on your part, then they’re going to respond to that.”