Four killings occurred here in the first month of the year, just two fewer than the six killing here last year.
“This situation did not happen overnight,” Cody Smith said to a crowd of about 200 at Southside Baptist Church on Tuesday evening. “It has been a long time coming.”
More than a thousand people had expressed interest in attending the public meeting, which was promoted on Facebook and billed as “Enough is Enough.”
Smith organized the meeting with David Reid following the city’s third killing, which “just put me over my boiling point of being concerned and I started being angry,” Smith said. Violent crime has “reached a level in Warner Robins that we’ve got to get a handle of.”
Warner Robins Police Chief Brett Evans, Mayor Randy Toms, Macon Regional Crimestoppers Chairman Warren Selby Jr. and Houston County District Attorney George Hartwig were among officials on the discussion panel.
Toms said the police department has been understaffed for a long time, but the city recently created five new police officer positions to add to the 120 existing ones. Adding more police would come at a cost.
“I want this community to be safe,” Toms said. “And if that means raising your taxes, I’m going to raise them.”
Evans recalled starting as a Warner Robins police officer in 1987 with only four people on patrol. There were nights in those times in which not a single 911 call was made, Evans said.
In 2000, the population of the city was 48,000 and there were 59,000 emergency calls that year. In 2016, the city’s population was 74,000 with more than 82,000 emergency calls that year, Evans said. Last year, there were 87,000 emergency calls.
The police department’s eight detectives are working twice as many cases now, Evans said.
“I really do feel and believe we have your support,” Evans said. The meeting “is not a blame game, just educational for you.”
Selby said last month was unusual for Warner Robins.
Education, jobs and prosperity all contribute to making a city uncomfortable for criminals to commit crimes, and “you have it,” Selby said. “You ought to be proud.”