Leaders target Augusta crime

Hope key, NAACP president says

As Augusta emerges from its deadliest year in more than a decade, civic leaders are offering ideas to prevent a repeat of 2010's 37 homicides.

Community involvement has gotten a boost through a crime watch grant, and there are calls for a citizen-based crime task force in the city.

Ministers such as the Rev. Larry Fryer are pushing for faith-based initiatives to keep youths off the streets, and a memorial wall for the victims of violent crime is in the works.

The latest outcry comes from the Augusta chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, which dedicated Saturday's Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. parade to the theme of "Stop the killings, stop the violence."

"A lot could be improved if we could find a mechanism of hope," said Charles Smith, the president of Augusta's NAACP chapter.

Crime has a lingering personal effect, and Smith proposes responding to it with a personal approach. After-school programs are a great place to start with young minds, but there should also be a way to mentor teenagers already on the road to a life of crime, Smith said.

From Smith's perspective, the key is to build self-worth and teach that crime doesn't pay.

Once in the "revolving door" of the jail, it's easy to get down and feel helpless and hopeless, Smith said. Mentors will provide accountability and encouragement.

"You lead by example," Smith said. "There are so many people who came from nowhere and went somewhere."

Smith acknowledges that not everyone is going to listen to a message of hope. He said it's important that mentors and community leaders stay focused and give it their best effort.

"You can't reach everybody, but you can try," he said.

 

Leaders assess ways to help curb criminal activity
King's message hits streets