Special Report: Living Under Siege

By Len Kiese - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -  How safe do you feel in Albany? Depending on where you live, that answer may be different.

Some say they can't escape the crime. It's right outside their doors and windows.

It's a frightening situation, and some Albany city leaders say they fear the worse is yet to come if something isn't done soon to stop it.

The sound of gunshots, along with the common sights of flashing lights, leads to tense days and nights in some Albany neighborhoods.

"That bullet that leaves that gun could be meant for you," said Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard.

"It's like so much just going on around you," said long-time Albanian Oris Jefferson.

Illegal things are taking place in every corner of the city, everything from stabbings to bold armed robberies and burglaries.

"Predators come out at night and they have devious ways or ideas to do things," Howard.

Bullets are flying through neighborhoods, some deadly, some making close calls. "If it continues to go on, it's probably going to eventually get to you," said Jefferson.

Jefferson hopes to keep crime away. "I close my door. I lock my door," said Jefferson.

Times have changed since the 1970's when she moved into her home and could leave the door unlocked.

She's gone from feeling secure, to some fear of criminals. "I am afraid because sometimes I see them walking at night," said Jefferson.

Residents feel like they're under attack by crime these days. "Coming through your alley, coming through your front, you don't know," said Jefferson.

The uncertainty about safety is to the point that some are even afraid to leave home, or even return home at night.

Jefferson had a close call when she found some suspicious characters hiding and waiting behind her home. "I could see the shadow. I could see something moving because I looked out the corner of my eye and I could see them but I didn't get out of my car. I backed back out," said Jefferson.

Having to back away from your own home? That shouldn't be the case. Home is supposed to be a safe haven.

"If we continue to let these hoodlums to be renegades in the community, individuals that are paying taxes will say I don't feel this community or city is safe and book up and leave," said Howard.

Commissioner Howard took us on a daytime stroll through parts of his ward on Mulberry Avenue.  "It appears that this is where a lot of the problems exist in this area... from drugs, to shootings. Matter of fact, a few years ago they had a killing down here," said Howard.

It's also the same neighborhood where bullets recently went through a home where an innocent elderly woman sat by a window. "This is an area I'm concerned about and at night I watch my back," said Howard.

And Howard watches what's going on around him with growing concern.  "Just like Albany and other cities, you've just seen a spike in crime, especially among young folks," said Howard.

The latest spike isn't yet documented by Albany Police crime statistics. The most recent numbers found online go up to the end of April.

Before Summer even started, there were five dozen robberies, more than 130 aggravated assaults, and a whopping 408 burglaries.

City leaders say something has to be done. "If we don't do it now or put forth some type of comprehensive plan, we could be city that could be living like a third world country, very so. The elements are here," said Howard.

But what can fight the criminal element? "Whatever it takes to make this city safe, manpower, public safety, a police increase, we've got to do it," said Howard.

Along with more police presence, Howard says some of the fight needs to start at home with parents, and between neighbors.

"Individuals and communities are going to have to organize and say we are not going to tolerate drugs, crime, armed robberies and burglaries in our community," said Howard.

Things certainly can't change overnight, but there's hope. "I believe wherever there's life, there's hope and we can't give up," said Howard.

Oris Jefferson learned a lesson a long time ago.  "You know you've got to give respect to get respect," said Jefferson.

And she plans to pass that lesson on to others, even the criminal element, as she heads up her Neighborhood Watch Program.

She says we just can't sit back and let them take over. "That's what I believe in, a nice and clean neighborhood. Whether you're renting or buying, it is yours as long as you're living in it," said Jefferson.   But for now, some say they continue to live under siege.

Commissioner Howard says because of the spike in crime, he's been getting several calls on how to start neighborhood watch programs.

He says those programs do help. Not feeling afraid to report crime also helps police rid the streets of the bad.

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