ALBANY — Given the recent fatal shootings in Albany, it was only fitting that C.H.A.M.P.S., a youth intervention program of the Dougherty County Sheriff’s Office, be given an opportunity to provide an update to the Dougherty County Commission Monday on its summer camp.
The camp recently wrapped up, with 200 children taking part in various activities over the course of two months — including field trips, swimming lessons, CPR training and suicide prevention programming.
Regrettably, it has become apparent such programs are not enough to deter much of the community’s hardest crime. Among the commission members, Chairman Chris Cohilas was the most vocal Monday in speaking out about the violent crime that’s plaguing the city — particularly as it relates to putting boots on the ground to deal with the issue.
Cohilas, who said he was among several elected officials getting phone calls from the public on the matter, said social media posts and an overall atmosphere of fear has reached a point that it is invaliding the places people often feel the most secure — even churches.
“I’m tired of it,” he said. “Let’s be real; there are gangs in this community.”
As assistant district attorney, Cohilas was involved in the process of signing warrants several years ago as part of an operation that knocked on doors and broke down gangs for some time afterward.
He pointed to the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit, which operates on county and city resources — with much of the drug activity it responds to, often connected to gang activity, being within the city limits. It has good leadership, but it is seven officers short, a problem that often goes higher than the police chiefs themselves.
The chairman was not in the mood to hold his tongue.
“(This shortage) is unacceptable,” Cohilas said. “We need to demand more of our partners.
“We are not arresting enough people.”
District 2 Commissioner Victor Edwards suggested the possibility of the county committing funds to Albany Area CrimeStoppers.
“Our financial contributions are already there,” Cohilas responded. “They are not being utilized as they should be.”
Dougherty County Sheriff Kevin Sproul added to the conversation by saying that crime prevention takes a multilevel approach. He also said there is an operation taking place behind the scenes, the details of which he is unable to disclose publicly.
“This is not something that will happen overnight,” Sproul said.
The sheriff said many guns involved in these crimes are illegally obtained, often through breaking into a home or car. Like many police chiefs, he also has a difficult time filling vacancies.
And it is not just because his hands are tied due to activities on a higher level.
“We are having a hard time finding young and qualified people who wanted to work for us,” Sproul said.
Dougherty County Police Chief Kenneth Johnson addressed the commission on Monday about updates on recent homicide cases. A father and son, Willie Mobley, 40, and Jacorie Mobley, 22, have been charged with murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime in connection to the death of Kawoski Newberry, 20, on Cherry Avenue last week.
The Mobleys were taken to the Dougherty County Jail. Johnson told the commission there has been no arrest made yet in the death of Quamyia Jones, 17, who died in a shooting on the same street four days before Newberry.