Albany family starts 'Take Back' campaign - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany family starts 'Take Back' campaign

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By Dawn Hobby - bio | email

August 14, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - An East Albany man dreams of a Better Albany, a city where crime isn't rampant and people aren't afraid to leave their homes.

He's making it happen on his own street, and now he's taking his message to the public with his committee for a Better Albany. And it's open to anyone who wants to Take Back His Neighborhood.

Kirk Smith and his family moved to Albany five years ago. They weren't prepared for what they found. "When we first moved here, this area was ridden with crime," said Smith.

His house sits on Farkas Lane, just off Radium Springs Road. What went on outside his house, shocked him.

"My wife could open the blinds and see drug deals going down. She could watch guys walk by smoking marijuana," he said.

Smith knew he had to take back his neighborhood. "I don't want to go out of my home on Saturday night and smell marijuana and see kids walking and smoking weed across my yard."

So he put up video cameras outside his house, and he says what he recorded was shocking. 

"Some parents are allowing kids to sell drugs out of their homes. We have it on tape," said Smith.

So he enlisted the help of the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit.

"We appreciate that because that helps us out, and if he calls with a request, we do anything we can to help him," said Maj. Derrell Smith, Drug Unit Commander.

But Kirk Smith didn't stop there. He formed a crime-fighting group.

They meet with law enforcement officers to talk and to listen.

"Children are selling drugs and parents don't have the tools. If they whip them, the kids call the law and they want to lock the parents up," says Willie James Jackson.

It's an open dialogue between frightened members of the community and the people who protect them.

"We, too, want to take back the streets. We have problems with drug dealers running the streets. Call the Sheriff's Office, we'll help with anything you need," says Capt. Craig Dodd of the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office.

This meeting offers hope, but the crime problem is much larger than this small group.

"We need more people to get involved. A lot of people know things and want to speak to this kind of meeting," says Ethel Butts.

"The more involvement from the community, the better. They're our eyes and ears out there. We can't be everywhere all the time," says Derrell Smith.  

With a rapidly-growing reputation as a crime-fighting advocate, Kirk Smith hopes the community will continue to reach out for help.

"A parent called last week about gangs shooting out street lights on Turner Field Road. We will  target those areas that need to be cleaned up," said Smith.

Just one month after declaring war on criminals, his own street is quiet.

"You know, we got a peaceful street here now. You can sleep,"  he says.

Thirty days of fighting back made a difference in this neighborhood, and he hopes what he's done will inspire others so they no longer live in fear.

"So many people live that way because these little thugs walk the streets and scare them and they are afraid of retribution. That's what they want, for you to be controlled. We will take back our streets."

Kirk Smith's community meeting was held the same day Albany police published disheartening crime stats that show crime is up 16 percent from last year.

If you are interested in contacting him for advice on how to Take Back Your Neighborhood, his phone number is (229) 883-7567.

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