MACON, Ga. — Some mayoral candidates have plans to cut down on crime in Macon-Bibb County. Sabrina Burse asked Stanley Stewart, Lester Miller, Verbin Weaver, Blake Sullivan, Virgil Watkins Jr., and Larry Schlesinger some questions to find out how they plan to address violence in the county.

Q: What would be your plan for fighting crime in Macon-Bibb? What would be your priorities?

A: Stanley Stewart said, "Try to have conflict resolution taught in the school system and even taught in the LEC to cut down on recidivism. Also, a higher pay for the sheriff's office is definitely something that needs to be dealt with. That would bring in more candidates for the sheriff's department. Community policing is another thing -- kids and families who kind of know the officers in those communities."

Stewart says non-traditional precincts that include after school programs for kids and law enforcement can bridge a gap in the community. He plans to implement other programs as well.

"Neighborhood exchange programs. That's another thing that I think is really necessary to kind of show kids part of the community that they may not venture into at different times," said Stewart. 

A: Lester Miller says, "We have to adequately compensate our public safety and first responders and we are going to have to have strength in numbers."

He adds, "Education. I think the school system has made substantial strides forward under Dr. Jones' leadership and I think we can continue to do that. Also, think you need to work better with the county with that. I think there are programs that you can work hand-in-hand together with instead of living in silos." 

"We have to come together. We always talk about race and white versus black, young versus old, poor versus rich. We haven't come together yet. We have to do some soul searching. Every human life is precious," he said. 

A: Verbin Weaver says, "Whenever we talk about solving crime, we have to talk about the root of crime. For the most part, that’s actually tied to a sense of hopelessness being economic or someone’s personal life, but as far as addressing these issues go, we have to start with where we can make an impact which is economically, so I believe that if we’re to give people economic hope, we have to create policies, such as a living wage rule that will guarantee them an opportunity inside of Macon so that they don’t feel so hopeless and trapped. Simultaneously, I would implement raises and pay scales for the sheriff’s department so that on the response side where we are unable to prevent it, we still have the resources to catch them."

A: Blake Sullivan says, "So for the last three years, we’ve been having a program in our school called ‘The Leader in Me.’ It’s a process of teaching leadership in our public schools to help children become leaders of themselves. So ‘The Leader in Me’ is based on the seven habits of highly-effective people. It was written by Steven Cuvy. It’s a well-thought of and well-read book for all businesses and other people, and because of teaching leadership to our kids, we give them power to be leaders of themselves. So, a couple of things that have happened in our public schools are, first of all, bullying in our classrooms have dropped remarkably in the schools that have the ‘Leader in Me’ process already, so my goal has been when we teach kids leadership, one of those is to have conflict resolution. Second thing I think we need to do is to really work on our gangs and other hopelessness that we have in our community. I believe that we go in and repair some of neighborhoods where blight is just now starting to occur."

A: Virgil Watkins Jr. says, "I think the crime here is a symptomatic of the high rates of poverty here, and the ease of access of guns, both are which require aid from the state. Locally, doing what we can to increase wages, reduce the cost of housing, food and healthcare are the greatest things we can do reduce crime in long-term. Short-term, we can  increase the pay of law enforcement to put more patrols on street, use technology to install countywide security camera program. And it’s beyond the scope of local government, but something must be done about the all of the black market guns. There are fewer murders, but about the same amount of gun crimes. And I believe property crime is up as well, but policing or lack thereof is not the cause of the crime, they are our response. The cause is that conditions are getting worst the economy has not worked for many in our community. 

A: Larry Schlesinger says, " I will continue to fully fund our Macon-Bibb County Sheriff and District Attorney Offices and implement a pay scale that will competitively compensate our veteran deputies and firefighters, as well as all new recruits. I would describe the state of crime here in Macon as symptomatic of its root cause, and that is poverty, which adversely affects one out of every four residents in our county, though one crime is absolutely one too many -- I’m told that statistics compiled by the Sheriff’s Office indicate that overall crime is on the decline in Macon-Bibb County."

All candidates agree the state of crime has decreased, but say it's something that need to continue to be addressed.  

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