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Downtown Macon business owners, Bibb Sheriff's Office work toward safety solutions

The Bibb County Sheriff's Office met with businesses weeks ago to improve safety downtown. Now, they're looking at results.

MACON, Ga. — Downtown Macon business owners say they want their staff and customers to feel safe.

That's why they're asking for better Bibb County Sheriff's Office presence in the area. A few weeks ago, those businesses met with the sheriff's office to work out safety solutions, and a plan. Tuesday, they got their first look at how the plan worked.

"We're working together. The whole point is that we should be working together," said Janine Ellis, who lives and works downtown.

They say teamwork will help you get anything accomplished. Dozens of downtown business owners want to accomplish a safer downtown Macon.

"Call that number at 2:00 in the morning and say, 'I've got an issue.' I've got help on the way," said Lieutenant Cedric Penson at Tuesday's meeting.

Penson heads up the SRT Unit, which is responsible for working downtown between 6 p.m. and 3 a.m. His message: 'Hold me accountable.' Penson says it's worked so far.

"How many shootings have there been downtown in seven weeks?" one man asked Penson.

"How many do you think?" Penson asked him. "Less than four. Before I came, it was more than 12."

Some folks at the meeting say while they see the benefits, they'd like to see better presence, especially when the bars close around 2 a.m.

"The suspects, or the people who are at their cars, like I said, aren't paying, or loitering, are not being addressed," said Materra Drafts, who runs bars Recess and Niche.

Sheriff David Davis told the group they're working to fix staffing problems. He hopes to expand sheriff's office operations downtown soon.

"Part-time and full-time deputies, we've hired about 70 since the first of the year. We've really turned it up," Davis said.

Some worried too much presence would deter business as much as crime. The sheriff's office says they'll continue to work with businesses to find middle ground.

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