MACON, Ga. — Macon-Bibb leaders have hosted 13 meetings since June aimed at finding ways to combat violent crime. It's all part of the Macon Violence Prevention Initiative or "MVP."
An estimated 1,020 people sat in on the conversations across those 13 meetings, voicing their thoughts about the way forward.
From victims' families and church leaders to bar owners and community members simply concerned about what's happening in their city, these Macon Violence Prevention forums show how violence crime in this county affects so many. We know that because we've heard from them.
Here's some of the key points made over the past couple months of discussion:
"My son was murdered two months ago. I come to these rallies and I come to these meetings," said Venice Hillman.
"I literally saw two kids die in front of me Friday. That's a problem," Darrin Ford, owner of A Brook Haven Lounge.
"What I'm here for is to get a solution," Hillman said.
Macon-Bibb County has seen 37 homicides in 2021 so far. The majority of the victims were young adults. 20 of the victims were under the age of 30.
It's a fact many people showed concern about at each MVP forum as they pointed to possible root causes of gun violence.
"It's economics. It's survival," said at a man at one of the forums.
"These kids, they need somewhere to go. They need somewhere to go," said Ray Wilson.
"They're looking for attention. They don't have the right people to go to give them what they need. Guess what they're going to do? They're going to confide in their friends and their friends are adolescent and immature, and guess what they're going to do? They're going to come up with something to do in the community that's disruptive," said Xavian Williams.
Some believe that the solutions start at home.
"Some parenting skills, some problem solving skills with our young parents male and female with these kids that'll stop some of the killings," said Myles Patrick.
"Families getting on one accord. Getting back to the families. Getting an understanding and knowing their responsibility as a parent," said Jeanette Lamar.
Some want to see community-based solutions that focus on building skills and positive relationships.
"Find them something to do, build them up, build programs, find the money. We got it around here," Williams said.
"From what I hear, these mentor programs are great, but there's no one to actually get up and go out and see. These kids are in rough places," said another man at one of the MVP forums.
Many people stated they want to see more action from Macon's faith-based community.
"There cannot be correction where there is no connection, you have to have a relationship with the people we're seeking to help," said Bibb Mt. Zion Church Pastor Paul Little.
Another solution suggested at many meetings involves the weapons themselves. Some folks think gun buybacks might help curb the violence, but others questions how effective that solution would be.
"They're not going to sell their gun because if they are 17, and 17-year-old homeboy just got shot. I'm not parting this gun," Wilson said.
So, what's the next step?
County spokesperson Chris Floore says at the end of September, county leadership including the mayor, district attorney's office, the sheriff's office, Public Defender's Office and others will all meet. They'll take the data and feedback to develop a plan.
The University of Georgia's Carl Vinson Institute is set to facilitate it. The county says they still have at least one more planned meeting happening in two weeks. Commissioner Mallory Jones is set to hold that one.
If you haven't been able to make it to a forum but want to leave input for county leaders, here's the county's online survey option.