Is Albany safe? The truth about crime in Albany.

Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 11:48 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 21, 2023 at 10:59 AM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Is Albany a safe place to live?

It’s a question even WALB News 10 gets when recruiting journalists. Every major employer in town has to answer that same question. Is the answer perception or reality?

First-time visitors are often struck by the same things. Just about everything you need is here — and there are beautiful places to visit.

As in most cities, there are challenges. One in four people in Albany lives in poverty. And poverty typically goes hand in hand with crime. But that doesn’t necessarily answer the question: Is Albany safe?

WALB News 10′s Heidi Paxson asked Albany Police Chief Michael Persley what he thinks the truth about crime in Albany is.

“You know, I believe there’s a misrepresentation, and is a lot to do with the perception. And, honestly, perception to a lot of people perception is reality,” Persley said.

But, perception is not reality.

WALB News 10 focused on the facts. WALB asked Persley for five years worth of crime stats — the number of thefts, robberies, rapes, assaults, and homicides. There were plenty of surprises. One being that property crimes are the most common offenses.

Persley said poverty does go hand in hand with property crimes. From January to March of this year, there were already more than 1,000 crime incidents.

“Poverty does play a part. Because to some people, now you’re right. If I go out here, and I sell drugs, if I go out here, and I break into a car, I’m not trying to hurt anybody, I’m trying to make some money so I can survive, or my family can survive,” Persley said. “You still breaking the law. You know? If that’s the case, those are people who definitely, that’s where the community partners come in.”

There have been high-profile, public shootings that have happened since Persley took the helm of the Albany Police Department. Two years ago, 8-year-old Nigel Brown was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting while he was sleeping. In March, Antwan Penn was shot and killed in his car with his wife.

“Just the other night, we, you know, investigating the case where a guy was driving down the street, and another vehicle drove up behind him and started shooting at him. Why is that,” Persley said. “You know, we always want to know, the backstory, well, why would somebody just arbitrarily start shooting at someone? Those are the challenges that we’re facing here. And it is, it is a shame, because when you have a reckless person who’s doing something reckless and dangerous, it does, it does impact perception.”

“Yes, I understand, you know, people, you know, minding their own business, and they get caught in the crossfire of what some other people are doing that should not have occurred.”

Statistics and soundbites can’t answer the big question. But, sometimes, comparisons can help. WALB looked at violent crime numbers in several comparable cities: Decatur, Illinois; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Gary, Indiana and Lake Charles, Louisana. WALB found that our violent crime numbers are comparable.

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