< it's almost as difficult as world hunger. What in the world do you do to address world hunger? What do you do to address youth violence?>
Mayor Robert Reichert...one year after he rolled out his youth crime prevention plan...reflecting on the challenge of making a safer Macon.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Leah Johnson.
And I'm Frank Malloy.
Tonight..we have team coverage ...As we examine progress...and work still to be done...with preventing youth crime.
One year ago this week....emotions ran high after several teens had been shot in the city of Macon... and one killed... within a matter of days.
City leaders... clergymen .. and Community activists spoke out ... And vowed to do all they could to cut down on teen violence.
You may remember on August 24th of last year... Someone shot two West Side high school students on the way to their bus stop on Virginia Drive.
Neighbors said they heard several gunshots.
One teen was shot in the chest.. another in the leg. Both survived.
Just three days later on Saturday, August 27th... 16-year old Arquentris Fountain.. and two other teens were shot after a party at Alexander Ballroom on Eisenhower Parkway.
Fountain died from a gunshot wound to the head.
That crime wave prompted Macon's Mayor Robert Reichert to speak out.
One year ago today he held a news conference.. laying out his plan to combat teen violence.
Katelyn Heck spoke with Reichert earlier today about what he's accomplished....to fight street crime.
<mayor Reichert, at that press conference last year, when you laid out your anti-crime plan, you showed a lot of emotion, so here I actually have an excerpt from that speech that you gave that we can take a look at as we look back on this last year
Video: finally, and above all else, we will pray, we will, we will pray for wisdom, we will pray for discernment, we will pray for God's guidance
K: do you still feel like you have that same passion?
R: Yes I do, Katelyn. The immediate shock of this kind of violence between youth is still very present with us and it doesn't take
much to get emotional about the tragedy of youth violence not just for the youth that are injured or killed, but also for the family of the perpetrator because they're going to catch them and they're going to lock them up, so then you've got two lives that have been affected. It's not an easy problem to address. it's almost as difficult as world hunger. what in the world do you do to address world hunger? what do you do to address youth violence? but the passion is still very much alive and we continue to seek ways, some with more urgency than others, but we continue to work with all of our partners in a multi-faceted approach, trying to restore hope and to prevent youth violence which is a tall order.
K: During that speech you gave a couple of big points that you really wanted to address and a couple of ways you wanted to do that. Can you recap those?
R: There are two major prongs to this approach, one is a reactive approach where the police react to crime that has occurred and that is to catch the perpetrators to prosecute them and to punish them to the full extent of the law. The larger piece however, I would say three-fourths of the effort is not reactive, but proactive; it's working with the education system to keep kids from dropping out, keep hope alive as Jessie Jackson suggested that we do 25 years ago. Once kids lose hope, they quit trying, their grades go down, they either drop out, or get thrown out, or expelled. Once their out of school it's a one way street downhill.
K: You mentioned a lot of different people and agencies with their hands in the pot, how do you as the Mayor of Macon fit into that plan?
R: You have to be all things, you have to start up programs, get people interested, and then step back and let them carry the ball. I can't be everywhere and do everything and start, and plant seeds, and if I can get even one church to say 'We'll do a youth effort, we'll do an after school program for kids in our neighborhood.' so we continue to work with shalom zones and with the faith community and Unity and Community and other programs as well. So getting something started and going, look for something else to try to keep it going, and then make the circle and come back around to see what's making progress, what's not making progress, so I would say the role of the mayor is chief cook and bottle-washer.>
Reichert mentioned collaborating with a team of local church leaders and community activists.
The group he put together met three times.... their last gathering was in December...
But a member of that panel... Al Tillman... Says their work did not stop when the group fell apart.
He says Instead of just sitting around a table talking about gang activity... He and other community leaders, including the mayor and Bibb County district attorney Greg Winters... Got out and met with gang members...
<"that's thinking outside the box. Now 'Oh they care, now I can come to the table? And I can sit down and have a conversation with the mayor? I can come in and have a conversation with community activists, city council members, law enforcement? you mean i can talk to the district attorney and he's not trying to prosecute me?' yes, yes and they want to.">
Tillman says he and Reichert also made a point to meet with people in the Youth Detention Center at least once a month.
But he believes their presence on social media sites like Facebook has made the biggest impact on gang-related crimes.
<"one of the young men who we were working with had a message on there saying 'f the mayor. We need to kill kill kill' and I reached out to him personally and to his probation officer and tried to get him a part of what we do and started talking to him.">
Not only has the anti-crime effort started conversations where gang violence happens... part of the process is finding a solution...and Mayor Reichert tells us education and jobs are key.
Brittiny Barber joins us now with more on an effort to develop safer communities by developing the workforce.
Sheknita (Sha-nita) Davis with Macon-Bibb Workforce Development says the mayor played an instrumental role in building some of their new programs.
Their department partnered with Bibb County Schools this year to provide career coaches to every ninth grader in the district.
And to help those kids who dropped out of school, Davis says they created the Power Up program, which gives people a chance to earn a GED and job training over a sixth month course.
<we're providing them with a second chance opportunity to get your life back on track. Not only that, but start a viable career. This is an in-demand occupation in our area, so there is job opportunity here, and then you have those adults, or those workers who have been laid off due to no fault of their own. You have to feed your family, and sometimes you get into situations that make you desperate, but this is another real solution.>
And Macon Police says they have stepped up their fight against teen crime.. with many community oriented activities.
Spokeswoman Jami Gaudet says the police department has undertaken many projects in the last year.
That list includes truancy sweeps... where they teamed up with the Bibb County Sheriff's Office.. the Board of Education Police... and U.S. attorney Michael Moore to find kids who were not in school.
They also refocused the Police Athletic activities League according to Major Tonnie Williams.
He says they've tried to get parents more involved in the activities to show support for the children.
And they held their first Family Fun Fest in June.. Where kids could enjoy inflatables ... And music.
While police helped the community learn that officers are people they can trust.
< In the last 12 months we have put forth efforts to introduce new programs and activities for youth and pre teen. We're trying to catch them before they get to that teenage stage to be able to provide them with activities and skills that will aid them in dealing with this transition from adolescence to teenage, becoming a teenager.>
Williams says City Council has given them the go-ahead to hire two new staff members for the Youth and Intervention Division.
They're currently working to find a crime prevention coordinator and fill another position funded by a grant to help with the youth intervention program.
Frank and Leah back to you.
Thank you, Brittiny.
Overall statistics show most major crime is down in the City of Macon this year compared to last.
Police spokeswoman Jami Gaudet gave us the numbers that show...
Part one crimes... Which include homicide.. rape .. Robbery.. Aggravated assault.. And burglary are down 14 percent.
When you break that number down.. Larcenies dropped 13 percent..
and there have been 310 fewer burglaries this year than last.
Robberies.. However... are slightly up one percent.
As for the number of homicides.. There have been 14 so far this year.
Last year there were 13.. The lowest number since 19-94.
In 2010- 22 homicides took place within the city limits.
The College Hill Alliance has been at work since 2009.
It's goal...to improve the area between Mercer University and downtown Macon.
The work's been funded with a 2-million-dollar grant from the Knight Foundation.
Next month, the foundation will decide whether to extend that funding for another three years.
The Alliance has helped with several projects, like the Lofts at Mercer Village and the Bealls Hill Neighborhood, but it's also initiated things like Second Sundays and Movies in the Park.
Alex Morrison, one of the Mercer Students that birthed the idea, likes what he sees...but says the work isn't done.
<the next part of that is turning that infrastructure into economic development. And the Alliance has shown that they are primed to make that connection and I think that letting the alliance disappear and say it's a job well done, which it has, would be a mistake.>
The staff members of the College Hill Alliance estimate they've helped bring in 25-million-dollars in commercial, residential and public funding.
They're asking the Knight Foundation for another 2-point-3 million.
From better places for people...to better places for animals.
The City of Warner Robins has a proposal for a puppy playground..
Council member Paul Shealy says they're eyeing a spot for a dog park off the Wellston walking trail on Spruce Street.
Since it sits in a residential area, Shealy says they're mailing letters to neighbors this week to inform people about the possibility of the dog park.
Jodi Daley is on the citizen committee helping to draft ideas.
<it would give us a space for the dogs to be unleashed and to socialize which is much needed for a lot of dogs. When they're cooped up in their homes and not socializing with a lot of dogs, they tend to be not as friendly and social with people.>
Shealy and Debra Jones with Keep Warner Robins Beautiful estimate building a dog park would cost about 10-thousand dollars.
Shealy says he plans to have an update on the latest plans at next Tuesday's council meeting.
Emilie Johnson, Bonaire I've been waiting for this since may, april so I am just, I love going to conventions cause it's time to get out of the house get out of the town and meet new people and just dress up and make so many memories from it.
That's first time Dragon Con goer Emilie Johnson...
She's one of a few central Georgians that will be heading to Atlanta dressed as some of their favorite comic and science-fiction characters.
We'll share their plans and check out some of their costumes...tonight at eleven.