Officials and public members fight back against violence

City and county officials listen to the public's concerns surrounding crime in East Albany during the first of four "Stop the Violence" forums

/ Colby Gallagher

The Gethsemane Worship Center held the first of four "Stop the Violence" public forums this evening at Albany State University to cover the problems surrounding East Albany. Coordinators say these forums will give people a place to express their concerns directly to public officials.

"To give them a voice about what's going on in the community, what's going on in their neighborhoods, and to just really voice themselves on what they would like to see in Albany/Dougherty County," said Gethsemane Worship Center's Bishop Frederick Williams.

The officials say this is a great way to show the public they're approachable and will work to directly target the areas that need help.

"Hopefully we gather different information and we'll be able to go back and disseminate those questions to the authority figures in place who can best help the citizens with whatever area of concern they might have," said Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul.

Members of the community were able to fill out a questionnaire that answered the official's questions but also write some concerns of their own so that everyone could be on even ground.

Despite being on opposite ends, both officials and the public agree that there needs to be a line of communication open between the two so that everyone can work together towards making our area safer.

"Too often folks don't realize that they can play a part in changing the direction of a city and our hope is that we share something with them that can help them do that," said Albany Police Department's Chief John Proctor.

"We need the people in position that can make a change to come out to hear the heart of the people and make a change," said Mark Knight, a member of the public who came to observe what was going on.

Officials say they can't address a problem they don't know about so communication is key in solving issues and the public felt tonight's forum proves that they're being heard.

"Our leaders are answering the needs of the people instead of just coming up with ideas that may not necessarily benefit our community," said Samuel Black, a teacher in East Albany who came because of his concerns with the youth in our community.

The second forum is scheduled for August 30th and will cover South Albany but officials urge everyone to come out no matter what side of town they're from.