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Bishop: Inaction won't stop violence

ALBANY, Ga. -- The founder of the Albany-Dougherty County Stop the Violence organization plans to continue working on providing alternatives to gangs and the violence they breed.

"None of us is safe," said Bishop Fredrick Williams, of the Gethsemane Worship Center, "as long as one of us is sitting doing nothing."

Williams spoke of offering opportunities for youth to find leadership, activity and a better way of life than gangs at the noon monthly Gang Task Force meeting Thursday. The task force comprises elected officials, law enforcement members, social service agency representatives and concerned residents among others.

"Prevention is the key to stopping violence," Williams said. "We need to deter crime with alternative programs."

Citing the April 15-18 success of a Stop the Violence sponsored "City of Champions Hoopfest," Williams said it could be done. The basketball extravaganza drew about 800 to play and about 7,000 to watch, Williams said.

"We get phone calls to Stop the Violence that ask, 'Can we do this every weekend?'" Williams said. "We had gang members attend. We had six gyms full all day. I have asked police and crime was down during that time."

During Hoopfest, no one saw saggy pants, there were no fights and gang member participation showed they were not against positive activities, Williams said.

The problem is that, although the ant-violence organization has grown, there haven't been enough volunteers to cover all that could be done, Williams said.

Williams said he needs more people to make the programs he plans work in the summer. He and Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard emphasized the need for black men to mentor and be role models in a city where they said 70 percent of children are in single-parent homes.

"We have to reach them as they are coming up," Williams said. "We have to help them make positive decisions."

Giving his report on the Albany Police Department Gang Unit, Lt. Tony Moore stressed that its job went beyond arresting gang members for crimes. His unit plans to reach out to churches and other organizations, such as the Stop the Violence group, to offer alternatives to joining a gang.

"We are going to focus on the schools, target parents to get them involved and bring in neighborhood watch members to get them involved," Moore said. "We will be working with the Stop the Violence group and other groups."