Crime Summit targets problem, forces community to take action - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Crime Summit targets problem, forces community to take action

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December 19, 2006

Stewart County-  Crime is a problem every south Georgia community. Tuesday, one community took a stand to try to stop it. A Crime Suppression Summit in Stewart County focused on illegal drug and alcohol use in the county and the negative effects which spin off from that. 

Stewart County has had its share of problems, two deadly gun battles between law enforcement and drug dealers in the last year and a half. Tuesday community, state, and federal leaders along with citizens met to talk about a solution, but as many learned the problems stretch past Stewart County and affect all of south Georgia. 

Not many in Stewart County have forgotten the August 2005 shootout between 26 year old Marcus Dalton and Lumpkin Police.  Five emergency responders, including Police Chief Jay Stripling were shot. In October, a year long undercover drug operation ended in a hail of gunfire when G-B-I agents were fired on and a suspected drug dealer lay dead. Now the community is tackling that drug problem head on.

"It takes tragedy to get things done, it takes something tragically to happen in the community to get things done," said concerned citizen Jermaine Harris.

Harris suggested, it's because teens don't have enough to do, they hang out on street corners, but Juvenile Court Judge Lisa Jones sees the problems daily said it's more.

"I think we have parents that don't place any importance on education, I think the children see that therefore they don't place any importance on it, I think that in combination with drug use, I think it just creates a helpless situation for many of our children," said Judge Lisa Jones.

Jones said it will remain hopeless unless neighbors confront criminals and follow through with their prosecution. GBI director Vernon Keenan said drugs are a problem in many rural south Georgia communities and not specific to Stewart County and until a local community confronts the issue it can't be solved.

"Law enforcement by itself cannot solve the underlying cause of crime, that's got to be a community effort," said Vernon Keenan, GBI Director. 

The summit provoked a response from at least one county resident who hopes getting involved with local youth may be the first step to eliminating the problem.

"I'm going to try to do my best to give back as much as I can and be a positive role model for the kids," said Harris.  

While there weren't any immediate solutions to come out of Tuesday's summit, small groups that broke off to discuss specific problems, like youth activities and anti-drug campaigns, plan to meet again to develop an action plan. The county then plans to focus specifically on several of those plans.

State elected officials in attendance hope more communities would be willing to host summit's like Stewart County's to address community crime problems.

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