ALBANY — Albany police are looking at a two-pronged approach to address a tide of violence that has seen the number of homicides match the 2019 total just a little over halfway through the year.
The latest fatal shooting occurred late Tuesday night. Officers who responded a little after midnight Wednesday found Willie Stringer Jr. dead outside a 905 S. Madison St. residence.
Albany Police Chief Michael Persley said he did not know whether Stringer, 32, whose address was given as Blakely, was living at that location.
One common factor in a number of recent shootings has been that they are apparent acts of retaliation, said Persley, who spoke with reporters during a Wednesday afternoon online conference.
“This is a situation where a person was probably caught up in some other situation other people had going on,” he said of Stringer’s shooting. “A lot of these have been retaliation from earlier incidents.”
No suspects had been arrested as of Wednesday afternoon, and police could not immediately determine whether street gang activity, which they “have not ruled out,” was a factor in Stringer’s slaying.
However, Persley said the serious issue the community faces is the pattern of individuals reaching for a gun to resolve conflicts, whether those incidents involve a domestic dispute or drug- and gang-related incidents.
“This is a mindset we’re dealing with,” he said.
Since the recent shootings have been concentrated in certain areas, police will reach out to residents — including those who may be involved in criminal activity themselves — to help break that cycle.
The chief said he believes interaction between officers and the public will help get the message out to those involved in crime that there are other ways to deal with disputes.
Secondly, police want cooperation from the public both to gather information that can help solve violent crimes and to identify individuals or locations that are at the center of criminal activity.
If officers can focus on a single house or one or two people in a neighborhood, it can make their job easier, Persley said.
“If you live in any of these areas and you’ve seen it and heard it, let us know about it,” he said. “Areas (where) there has been a significant increase in firearms-related incidents, that’s where we need to focus our resources.
“We don’t want to over-police an area, but we want to assure people they’re safe. We need to get from behind our comfort zone and go out where they’re at. I want to make sure the people trust us to (bring) these people that are going around doing this to justice.”
People can contact police to give information anonymously by calling (229) 436-TIPS (8477) or the main department number at (229) 431-2100.
In addition to providing information to police, the community can help by encouraging family members who are involved or at risk of getting into gang culture as well as drugs and criminal activity to escape that lifestyle, Persley said. In addition to police, those family members can reach out to other community resources.
“I don’t care how many times we have to ask, we will,” Persley said. “If we’re missing the mark, let us know. I don’t want any other families, whether it is on the side of the victim or the offender, to go through this.”
So far through 2020 there have been 11 homicides in the county, all but one of which occurred inside the city of Albany, which matches the 2019 total, Dougherty County Coroner Michael Fowler said. Of those, 10 were gunshot cases and one was a fatal stabbing.
Over the previous four years, the highest death toll by homicide came in 2017, when there were 23, Fowler said. There were 17 homicides each in 2016 and 2018.