City leaders call for safety improvements - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

City leaders call for safety improvements

November 29, 2005

Albany-- Despite a recent wave in violent crime, Albany leaders say the city is not dangerous, and they plan to make it even safer. But they say improvements can be made to make sure everyone stays safe.

Armed robberies, shootings, and even a murder at a popular restaurant have many wondering who will be the next victim.

There have been nine murders in the city of Albany already this year, up from five in all of 2004, but despite that steep increase, city leaders say crime is actually on the decline.

Even so, they have a course of action to make sure the citizens feel and are secure. There hasn't been an increase in violent crime in Albany this year, with the exception of homicides which have almost doubled.

"But there has been a significant degree of concern expressed by the residents and that makes it more important and supercedes the stats," says City Manager Alfred Lott.

Mayor Willie Adams says, "Realistically speaking, when you live in a city with 70,000 to 100,000 people and crime is going to exist and it's our job to make sure our citizens are protected."

And there are three main ways City Manager Alfred Lott, and Mayor Willie Adams plan to do that. The first is to improve the police department.

Lott says, "We have a certain situation where our police Department is understaffed."

More than 30 positions below the national standard. "To be down 30 officers is unacceptable, and that is certainly below the standards of the country, and that's what we're going to be working on."

A new Police Chief should be on the job by the beginning of 2006, his goals, as outlined by Lott will be to recruit new officers, retain exceptional ones, and reorganize the department for effectiveness.

But even with a fully staffed police department, officers can't be every where all the time. "It's always a great idea to have a neighborhood watch program, so that you and your neighbors can help watch each other's houses, and watch their yards and take care of the neighborhood," says Lott. "And when somebody is in the neighborhood who shouldn't be there, you can call police and get them checked out."

In addition to having a neighborhood watch, and more police officers city leaders believe more social services and activities for kids, as well as education, will keep them out of trouble later in life.

Lott says, "Maybe we should do a better job of intervention at the 12, 13, 14 year mark, before people become felons at 17 and 18."

"Education is the key," says Adams "Education where you can better yourself in the community. Education is the key." A key that may open the door to a better future for Albany.

We requested an interview with interim Police Chief Bobby Hooper to find out what actions the Police Department was taking to ensure the safety of citizens, but he refused to go on camera without being given an exact list of questions in advance.

Alfred Lott says he plans to appear before the city council during the next budget session to request more money for officers salaries.

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