ALBANY — In the wake of recent fatal shootings of two young people, there is concern in the community and fear that there could be more to come.
“I know people are shocked,” James Pratt Jr. said on Thursday morning after attending an information session with law enforcement and elected officials at the Albany Police Department. “I have two little brothers who are in school. It just makes me want to hug them tighter.”
Albany police are now investigating the deaths of Quamyia Jones, 17, a female who was fatally shot on Saturday, and the Wednesday slaying of Kawoski Newberry, 20, at 631 Cherry Ave. The cases are being investigated as homicides.
That brings the number of homicides in the city to eight for the year, Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler said during a telephone interview on Thursday.
During the meeting, Albany Police Department Chief Michael Persley said that investigators have not determined that the slayings are gang-related, but it is a possibility.
“We don’t have a sure determination, (but) we are sure gang — gang culture — is involved,” he said. “Through social media, you can see they had some gang association. When we talk about the identity, the culture, a portion of our young population thinks this is the way to go.”
Persley said that the department is addressing concerns and postings on social media concerning purported future activity.
Despite the concern, Persley said that citizens are safe at school and work.
Security has been beefed up at certain locations, and police are working neighborhoods to reassure residents. Non-sworn police employees have been talking with people who might be reluctant to speak with an officer in uniform.
“For all residents, continue about your daily business,” Persley said. “There will be football games; get out and go. There will be increased security.”
Persley said the increased police presence won’t be just for a few days in the wake of the shootings but “for weeks to come.”
Police also will look to get known gang members off the streets, Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards told the audience.
“It is not against the law to be in a gang,” he said.
However, people who are on bond, probation and parole and have a stipulation to avoid gangs and gang activity will be in violation, the district attorney said.
“We’ll get you arrested, and this office will look to revoke your probation or parole of bond,” Edwards said. “That will be a basis for the arrest. We’re trying to take a proactive approach.”
Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard encouraged anyone who has information about suspected criminal activity to report it to police.
“I come to you with a heavy heart,” she said. “I extend my sympathy to the families of the victims of the recent crimes.
“As long as I have been on the City Commission, it has been a priority of the mayor and board to make sure the community is safe. We support our chief and all the other officers who work with us.”
Ultimately, it will take more than police work to solve the ills of gangs and gun violence associated with it, said Pratt, who is part of a group that has reorganized a citizen’s Criminal Gang Network of Action Task Force.
“As a city, we need to exhibit more compassion,” he said. “A lot of this comes from hate.”