MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Milledgeville officials say a local consultant will help them draw up a city anti-violence plan. Back in July, Mayor Mary Parham-Copelan and others said they'd put together a plan in response to a wave of gang violence.
13WMAZ’s Jessica Cha went to Milledgeville to find out more about the proposed plan and where it stands.
"We're super excited to partner with them to see what things we can do in our community,” Mayor Mary Parham Copelan says.
She explains that they had plans to create an anti-violence plan which began almost a year ago. She says they needed to form a committee to work on one.
“It included school boards-- just anybody that wanted to come in and give their opinion on how they think we could best suit the needs for Milledgeville/Baldwin County,” Parham Copelan says.
With schools, the NAACP, community members and more on board, City Manager Hank Griffeth says a market research consultant approached them to help collect data on violence in the community.
She has already done a tremendous amount of work in putting together a group that the city will be a part of to help us look at the bigger issues that may be causing this crime, and create some systemic prevention,” Griffeth explains.
Melissa Smith is her name. She says she’s been living in Milledgeville for the past year, and as she got involved in community groups– she began to learn about the city’s issues with violence.
“That lead me to Cynthia Edwards at the NAACP who had started an organization to address the problem with violence, and one of the things they were looking for was someone to deal with data and research,” Smith explains.
Modeled after Macon-Bibb's MVP program, she says they'll start by collecting people's ideas through surveys and community conversations which include, “A lot of questions around your perceptions on violence and crime, so one of the early questions is, 'How serious is crime in your community?' Then followed up by, 'What crimes do you think are prevalent in Milledgeville?'” she says.
Smith says after answers are collected from the surveys, they’ll begin planning some community conversations which will be structured with guided exercises to pick people’s minds about possible solutions to some of the problems.
“Once we have that dataset established, we’ll start looking for gaps in our data. Start looking for places where we can better understand our issue by speaking with the police department, speaking with the health department, by speaking with the school board,” she says.
Smith says her job usually involves her working with retail market research, but she says her skills could translate to this situation. She says the task is daunting, but she says she wants to make the community better.
“I have an 11-year-old son. He’s getting outside the realm of my influence. I can’t always control what he always sees, and hear, and does at this point in his life,” Smith explains, “So it’s my fervent hope that the places he goes, and the world he enters is a kind one and a safe one.”
She says as much of that she can help with, she will.
Smith says the surveys will be released next week. She says County Commissioner Kendrick Butts will hold a public Q&A session this Saturday from 2 p.m. - 4 p.m. at the Collins P. Lee Center on Harrisburg Road.
The public is invited to come to and ask questions about the city's crime initiative.