Fight violent crime.
This is something that many residents from all walks of life have pledged to do of late in Milledgeville and Baldwin County. Law enforcement officials are joined by community groups seeking to end the violent crimes that have impacted the lives of local communities this year.
Several community stakeholders gathered at Milledgeville town hall on Wednesday evening to discuss ways to tackle the problem. Among them were elected government leaders, educators, church pastors, business people, members of various community organizations and residents. Members of the law enforcement community also met with them, including Baldwin County Sheriff Bill Massee and Milledgeville Police Chief Dray Swicord.
They shared a common goal: to seek to end the violence.
Authorities said nearly 300 crimes, all involving guns and the majority of them related to driving, have taken place in the city and county so far this year.
Milledgeville Mayor Mary Parham Copelan held a joint press conference at town hall with city and county officials on Tuesday.
The mayor said she wanted everyone in the community to know that government leaders and law enforcement authorities are well aware of the ever-increasing violent crime rate in the city and county.
“Are we discouraged, yes, and if we could change it overnight, we would,” Parham-Copelan told reporters. “Our work, mainly, as elected representatives, deals with budgets; it deals with local ordinances and how we institute them from our law enforcement agencies (agencies) to carry them out. Do we want to continue defending this type of behavior in Milledgeville and Baldwin County – no, we are not. “
The mayor said she and other local government officials, as well as law enforcement officials, wanted to send a clear message.
“We want this type of behavior to be reduced,” said Parham-Copelan. “We want people to feel like they can come out of their homes and sit on their porch or shop or whatever they choose to do in our community. It has always been a quiet community, a great place to work, live and play.
Baldwin County Commissioner Henry Craig said local governments in the community were ready to try and find whatever resources law enforcement authorities need – whether it’s money or money. political will – to dramatically reduce crime.
“But more than anything else, I think what we need is help from our community,” Craig said. “We need our community to help us determine who the offenders are. We need families to take care of their children. We need the community (people) to encourage children to do the right thing and to point them out if they do the wrong thing. It is very important that we work together to overcome this.
On Wednesday evening, Massee and Swicord spoke to stakeholders.
Massee said he and Swicord had several major investigations underway, but couldn’t discuss them in detail.
He also spoke of the need for community members to help them.
“We know what we’re going to do,” Massee said. “We have active investigations underway and we will make arrests. But we have a lot of people in the community who have other ideas and things we need to do other than law enforcement. “
The sheriff said there have been more than 80 shootings in the county this year alone.
“We are extremely lucky that we did not have a large number of deaths to accompany this,” Massee said. “We have been blessed or lucky.”
The police chief, meanwhile, said police and detectives have investigated more than 180 shooting incidents within city limits so far this year.
Swicord noted the recent shooting at the Renaissance Park campus at Central State Hospital involving the occupants of two vehicles shooting at each other among more than 300 guests attending an event in Pecan Grove.
The guests were part of a group of parents whose children now attend Georgia College in their first grade. None of them were injured in the shootout.
Cynthia Ward-Edwards, executive director of Communities In Schools of Milledgeville-Baldwin County and president of the local branch of the NAACP, called the latest stakeholder meeting as a strategic meeting.
“Just know this is a strategy meeting tonight, not so much a question and answer meeting because we don’t have all the answers yet,” Ward-Edwards said. “The people in the room tonight represent the County of Milledgeville-Baldwin. You are our leaders here in Milledgeville and Baldwin County. Everyone in Milledgeville and Baldwin County admires you. We have to do something. We may not have all the answers, but I think the people who have most of the answers are here in this room.
Ward-Edwards said the problem is bigger than the sheer number of shootings that have taken place this year.
“We have bigger issues that come with how we go about getting these gangs, these people off the streets of these shootings,” Ward-Edwards said.
Baldwin County School Superintendent Dr. Noris Price also attended the stakeholder meeting.
She runs a public school system with nearly 5,000 students.
“The majority of our kids come to school every day to do the right thing,” Price said. “And it’s to learn. So, we have a very small percentage of our kids who have difficult behaviors and make bad choices or decide they don’t want to finish school and end up dropping out. And it’s the students who end up in trouble and in the juvenile justice system. “
One of the biggest problems is poverty, she stressed.
“And we have to take that,” Price said. “It’s a wonderful community, a retirement community, and it has so much to offer. But we have a problem of poverty in our community.
She described it as generational poverty.
“And when you have poverty, you lack hope,” Price said. “And when you lack hope, you resort to things that you and I normally wouldn’t do. And so, you’ve got that and you’ve got gang members who take advantage of the fact that you’ve got people who are desperate, desperate for money, desperate to buy things, and get involved in drug dealing or dealing. other crimes is a quick way to make money. “
Price said children in the community need to be shown the value of an education.
“And I’ve said it over and over again, the only way for us to break the cycle of poverty in this community is through education,” Price said. “All of us in this community need to wrap our arms around every child in this community. We own every child in this community and we need to come together and make sure first of all that they get a quality education, graduate from high school and have options. “
Price said those options are limited in this community, especially when it comes to jobs.
“So what are we going to do as a community to make sure our young people have options,” Price asked. “We need to have more extracurricular activities. We do our best in our school district. We are looking for grants. We have after-school programs for our preschoolers up to grade 12.
Some students do not participate in any of these programs. Instead, they return home to empty houses – to places where there is no surveillance, the school principal said.
“And if they don’t have anything to take their time, they’re going to find a way to be entertained,” Price said. “And there are people who see that and are able to get our kids to do things they know they shouldn’t be doing.”