'Got a phone call saying my son is dead':
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, we've seen so many numbers like cases, deaths, and unemployment rates, but each one of those numbers represents a real person who made an impact in this world. During this crisis, Macon-Bibb County faced another crisis with 51 homicides in 2020, setting a new record. It is important to remember that each homicide victim is more than just a number.
Just one of the youngest victims shot and killed was 16-year-old Devaun Patton. Today, his father is still grieving while one community leader is working to make sure we don't see another deadly, record-setting year.
"He wasn't shy at all," Kevin Patton said about his son Devaun.
On September 27th, 2003, Devaun Patton was born.
"A loving kid, 16-year-old little boy, you know what I'm saying?" Patton said.
Devaun was the oldest of 10 brothers and sisters. His dad Kevin says Devaun put family first and would stop at nothing to help anyone out.
"He brought me back. I remember sitting at the house with no money in my pocket, depressed, and he come down the street with $100, talking about he done washed some windows," Patton said.
More than a Number: Some lost to violence in 2020
Patton says his son was still growing up, trying to fit in and understand the world. Devaun spent time with his dad in Oklahoma before going to Macon to spend time with family.
"He went home and picked a bunch of wrong people to hang around with. He wasn't that type of person," Patton said.
On July 17, 2020, Patton was shot in the stomach and killed during a fight in the parking lot of the Family Dollar off of Bloomfield Road.
"Got a phone call saying my son is dead, out the blue, so it's like," Patton said.
Patton was just one of the 51 people whose lives were lost to violence during a record-setting year in 2020 in Macon-Bibb County.
"These individuals are more than numbers -- these numbers are connected to stories," Pastor Paul Little of Bibb Mount Zion Baptist Church said.
Little says combating crime will have to be a multifaceted approach. Throughout 2020, Little led protests and conversations centered around saving the lives of people young and old.
"Having to address issues like poverty, mental health disparities, educational opportunities, all of those things are a culmination of why we have such great crime in our community," Little said.
Little hopes community leaders and county officials can work together to avoid another deadly year in Bibb County -- so parents like Patton never have to bury their own child.
"I'm still trying to figure out how I could have made something better out of the situation," Patton said.
Macon's record-breaking 2020:
2020 was a year that we will never forget for many reasons -- from being in a pandemic, to race relations, and right in Macon, witnessing the record-breaking number of homicides that took place last year.
Bibb County Sheriff David Davis says a modern day record was set in 2020, which is normal in bigger cities like Atlanta, but not in Macon. Macon averaged about one homicide a week. He believes the COVID-19 pandemic was a contributing factor in the crime rate, due to the uncertainty that we all face.
Davis says he sees the stress reflected in the kinds of crimes -- cases where several people were shot at once, domestic violence killings, and impulse homicides.
"It is troubling and heart-wrenching every time we get a call saying that somebody has lost their life -- in whatever way they may have lost their life -- but particularly to violence that could have been avoided with some early intervention," Davis said last year.
The sheriff says he wants to reform relationships with all parts on the Macon-Bibb community and plans to start a new program called "Reach and Restorative Justice" to encourage teens and young adults to find peaceful solutions or ask for help instead of lashing out.
Davis urges people to intervene if you see someone going down the wrong path, because many of these impulse decisions can be solved with intervention.
In 2020, Davis says the sheriff's office had a 70% solve rate. 32 cases are solved out of the 51 homicides.