After A Shooting, This Task Force Goes Door-To-Door
It was April 1 at exactly noon when Crystal Logan got the phone call: Her daughter Jenea and her son Donell had been shot.
"As often as we see it on the news, you really never think that it would happen to you," she says, crying. "Literally, 20 minutes. I’d only been gone 20 minutes. And in 20 minutes, my whole life changed."
She rushed to the corner of Parsons Avenue and Kossuth Street.
"As we got towards the end of the alley facing the street, I was able to see Jenea's body laying facedown," she says.
The South Side area where her children were shot is one of three Columbus neighborhoods identified by the city as being hit hardest by gun violence and shooting deaths - the others being Linden and the Hilltop.
"Those neighborhoods were selected using a lot of data," says Mysheika Roberts, director of the Public Health Department. "Particularly, looking at police data and the number of homicides that occurred in those neighborhoods as well as looking at what city resources were available to provide support for those neighborhoods."
Roberts runs the Violent Crime Review Group, a collection of several city agencies that review every gun related homicide in those three neighborhoods. The group’s goal is to lower homicide rates by tackling the underlying factors that could contribute to violence.
It was created as part of Mayor Andrew Ginther's Comprehensive Neighborhood Safety Strategy in 2017, in the middle of Columbus' deadliest year on record.
"I would liken gun violence to just like an infectious disease," Roberts says. "We try to figure out what the culprit is, what the trend is, and where an intervention can be."
As soon as a shooting happens in Linden, the South Side or the Hilltop, group members hop on a phone call to start formulating a plan for outreach. The Department of Neighborhoods assesses if street lights need repair. Recreation and Parks finds out if the crime was gang-related and tries to prevent retaliation.
Marian Stuckey is a member of the CARE Coalition. After a shooting, her group knocks on doors to see if community members need to be connected to therapy or other resources.
"We went all the way down and canvassed on both sides of the street, just to make sure the residents knew that we were here for them," she says, walking down a street in the Hilltop neighborhood.
Stuckey remembers knocking on the door of a mother who said she dove on top of her children to protect them from stray bullets.
"She was telling us she was scared to even answer the door. So for us to come and just check on her, she felt really grateful for that," she says. "And she was ready to see what she could do to work through some of those trauma symptoms cause she was scared of just being in her own apartment."
This year, CARE has knocked on more than 800 doors as part of the Violent Crime Review Group. They’ve identified more than 40 vacant homes to be boarded up.
"Those things bring crime, and bring gun violence," she says, stopping in front of a vacant house. The grass in the yard has grown long, overtaking the front walk.
"You see a lot of that," she continues. "This house that no one cares about is an opportunity for someone who may be looking to squat... And we hear that a lot too from residents, is that they're just really concerned about different properties, and why stuff hasn't been done."
Logan joined the CARE team after the deaths of her children, to help with community outreach after shootings.
"When everything first happened," Logan says, "I remember asking God, 'Why? Why me? Why my family?' And he gave me back a very quick answer and said, 'Their deaths were necessary to bring about change.'"
While Logan is talking, a man walks up to her. They speak for a moment, then he hugs her.
"He recognized me from the office and just wanted to give me a hug and encourage me," Logan explains. "And to say I’m motivating him being strong after the loss of my two children."
She tears up. Despite all the violence, she says there is still a lot of love left in these neighborhoods.
Since 2017, homicides in Columbus are down about 30%.