ALBANY -- In the second forum held by the Stop the Violence group the voice of the people was heard through questions directed to city officials.
Residents submitted questions to Bishop Fredrick Williams Sr., founder of the anti-violence grassroots group, and he asked the officials attending the forum in Alice Coachman Elementary School for the answers.
Considering that gang members fatally shot and wounded other gang members at the Shackelford Shopping Center Sunday, it was no surprise that the first question was about gangs.
"What is being done now about gangs in Albany?"
Standing up to the podium Albany Police Chief John Proctor answered. "It is unfortunate to deal with the death of any young person in this community. I can assure you we are doing everything we can do legally.
"Our gang squad is not having many nights of rest this week. We are keeping our eyes on identified, known gang members. All our officers are working as hard as we can."
Proctor said that wasn't enough to eradicate the problem. He called on the approximately 60 people at the meeting to get involved and join the fight.
"This is not going to change until we as a community get angry enough to say, 'We have had enough,'" he said.
Proctor and District Attorney Greg Edwards called on people to stop sitting in fear and pick up their phones.
"Information will stop this gang activity," Edwards said. "We have to be able to stop it on the front end. You must let us know if you see suspicious people. Alert the people who can stop gang violence, the police."
Edwards also said that once a gang member is caught in a crime, he adds charges of gang participation to the underlying crime, the one that prompted the gang member's arrest.
"A gang participation charge attached," Edwards said, "adds five to 15 years to the sentence if convicted."
Authorities said they need help from the community. Neighborhood watch is one way for residents to band together to take back their neighborhoods.
Proctor added that Albany's south-central and north-central areas are two places where neighborhood watches have not yet established a strong presence.
Residents were urged to call Albany police at (229) 2100 and ask about neighborhood watch in their area.
Also attending the meeting were Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul, Albany Water Gas & Light Commission's Lorie Farkas, a staff member of Rep. Sanford Bishop Jr., D-Albany and City Commissioners Chris Pike and Roger Marietta.
This was the second forum held by the Stop the Violence group. The first was in East Albany. The next is scheduled for North Albany on Sept. 27 at a time and date to be arranged. For more information, call (229) 436-0009.