Americus hosts first gun violence prevention summit
AMERICUS, Ga. (WALB) - People in Americus want to make sure no one ignores a recent spike in crime involving the youth. They say part of the solution is creating programs that will help youth get on the right path.
The three goals for Friday’s gathering of community leaders and people in Americus were awareness, ownership and a road map for success. And people in Americus want their voices heard about these goals.
“I do think there are some systematic things in place that are causing it. But I do believe it’s solely Black culture. We have codes in the Black community of ‘no snitching,’ so they will see something and not say anything,” Courtney Moore, pastor of the Kingdom Church in Americus, said.
Moore, an Americus resident, shares that he wants to be a part of the change. By getting together, he hopes the youth can have a sense of belonging from the start.
There were three goals set for the summit, however, District 150 Georgia State Representative Patty Bentley is excited about her new role and adding some initiatives of her own.
“I do believe so, and I would like to add to those goals as stated earlier in the summit. That is to get the information out into the community and get it into the ears and hands of our youth of the community. So that they can surely understand where we are as a community, and how we need to get off this path of destruction with gun violence,” Bentley said.
The turnout served over 100 people aimed at the same goal: stopping gun violence in the community.
“One of the great things about having such a good turnout today, it gives new ideas and new ways of how to engage the community. And get an understanding of everybody in their perspective professional or private areas,” said Sumter County Sheriff Eric D. Bryant.
This is the first summit and they want to make sure it’s not the last. Americus Police Chief Mark Scott added how he plans to push forward.
“Our goal going forward is to make sure that we are available. Working with the groups that are already there. There is a lot of good work that is already going on in Americus and Sumter County. Our job is to just support that and our officers are committed to it, and we are going to be there to be the catalyst that makes that change,” Scott said.
People in Americus are pushing for action after several gun incidents involving young people.
Several people believe part of the problem is what youth see and consume on social media. A lot of people say it starts at home and guiding the children.
“Sometimes young people just want someone to listen to them. I want them to know that their new state representative is willing to sit down and not only talk with them, but listen and formulate solutions together,” Bentley said.
The mayor of Americus shares how he is already working to correct some of the behavior. He wants people to know if they aren’t getting love at home, he wants to ensure they receive it from the school systems.
“It’s going to take all of us in the community to provide a positive sense of belonging for our children,” Americus Mayor Lee Kinnamon said.
Gun violence is not just a problem in Americus, it’s everywhere. According to Neighborhood Scout, a lot of crimes in Americus are property crimes, which is a rate of 38 per 1,000 population.
“People react in different ways based upon things they have experienced in the past. Whether a lack of love from parents in the home, or neglect. So, there is a lot of things that play a part as to the reason why these young men are doing what they are doing. We want to find out that reason and see where we can detour the behavior in the right direction,” Moore said.
Sumter County District Attorney Lewis Lamb says that overall crime in the county has gone down over the last few years. Summits like the one on Friday will help bring the community together.
Several people in Americus have stepped up to try and address the issue. This is the first summit but certainly not the last.
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