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Columbia Marks A Milestone
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COLUMBIA - The city of Columbia is booming with new restaurants and shops popping up all around the city, especially on the east side.

That's because Columbia's population is about to hit a new mark of 100,000 people.

The city's growth has steadily increased throughout the past seven years with an average annual percent change of 1.5 percent. If the growth rate continues, Columbia will likely hit 100,000 people by the end of the decade.

Normally when cities hit around the 100,000 population mark, it tends to peak the interest of different business chains. So, Columbia residents shouldn't be too surprised when they start seeing some more options as they head into town. Restaurants like Houlihan's have now found a pocket in the city.

"I think it's going to be a gateway to the Columbia here on the east side of town," said Mike Powers, Houlihan's franchisee. "There's a lot of hospitals, plus the university and there's a lot of people who work around here. So, our lunches are doing well as well as our dinners and our late night crowd."

Also, the number of new licenses in the city have increased.  The swell started around 2006 with 250 new licenses compared to 2005 with only 180.

"We have a lot more business licenses, especially in the last couple years," said Janice Finely, the Columbia business serivces administrator.

But a growing city does have its drawbacks.

In the past couple of months, Columbia has seen a dramatic spike in crime, with several shootings, robberies, and murders. The crime wave led the mayor and police chief to hold a press conference Friday to address the issue.

"When we solve crime, that's not just police either, it's the community coming forward with Crime Stoppers calls and things of that nature and helping us do our job," said Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm.

The result is a new Violent Crimes Task Force made up of the Columbia and MU Police Departments, The Boone County Sheriff's Department, The Highway Patrol and the FBI.

The city also announced a new robbery detail which will look into identifying recent robbers. Boehm said the department is constantly hiring new officials to cope with growing criminal and growth trends.

"When you're talking about population growth or growth of a city, it's not just population, it's things like geography," said Boehm. "As we get bigger geographically, it takes longer for our officers to get from one call to the next. So we monitor all those things, we try to address those issues and then request resources we think we need to deal with those issues."

Looking at Columbia's estimated annual percent change in population, it's not as high as the annual percent change of sworn officers, even though the police force only averages about three new officers and an increase in crime.

Reported by: Fanna Haile-Selassie
Posted by: Cassandra Novy

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