Seeking solutions to chronic gun violence in Macon, several leaders of local law enforcement, religious and hip-hop communities gathered Thursday evening to pitch their ideas.
The Youth & Gun Violence Outreach Forum at the Macon-Bibb County Government Center, organized by Commissioner Al Tillman, drew more than 50 people.
“We’re not here tonight to bash any agency,” said Pam Lightsey from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. “We’re not here tonight to talk about what the problem is. We all know what the problem is.”
Several deaths and injuries are the result of gunfire in Bibb County in the past few months, including a 16-year-old male killed in February at a Little League baseball field, a 26-year-old man killed March 26, two men and a woman killed May 29 in an apparent bungled robbery, a 19-year-old killed June 5, a 33-year-old killed June 14 and two young men seriously injured June 21.
Tillman and Lightsey, who co-hosted the event, asked panelists to give their ideas about potential solutions and who might help put them in place.
Club promoter Larry Guyton, of Guyton Entertainment, said violence stems from problems deeply rooted in the community. Many young people have nothing to do when they get out of school, and they don’t listen to police or official voices they can’t relate to, he said.
They need to hear about the consequences of violence and gun crimes from familiar faces they respect, Guyton said.
U.S. Attorney Michael Moore said he wanted to hear ideas himself, knowing that “we can’t prosecute our way out of our problems.”
Businessman Billy Pitts said community leaders need to go into neighborhoods and let residents know they’re concerned and involved. He said he was struck by something he heard from Bibb County Sheriff David Davis, who was in the audience Thursday: “That’s their job,” Davis had said of people committing killings and thefts.
Youths who are tempted to make a living by the same means need to know there are real alternatives available, Pitts said.
L.J. Malone, cofounder of “Stop the Violence, Start the Music,” said the black community needs to deal collectively with many internal problems.
“Personally I feel like we have a lot of deep-rooted issues that don’t get discussed,” he said. Members of the black community need to work together to address social and educational problems themselves, with low-key backing from outside, Malone said.
Panelists noted that many groups form to combat violence and community problems, but often remain tiny or last only a short time.
That shows a need for collaboration and pooling of resources, said state Rep. Nikki Randall, D-Macon.
She gets calls every day from various people with “grandiose ideas,” and her response is to ask if they’ve tried working with established agencies that have credible track records, she said.
“What I find is, I think a lot of people just want some limelight,” Randall said. Without a realistic goal, she said, would-be activists are “just making noise.”
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.