Augusta Commissioners weighed in with NewsChannel 6 after multiple shootings hit two districts this month. The first week in June saw five shootings. And many of them appeared to be young people gunning others down in retaliation. So, we went to the neighborhoods to see how those leaders plan to do their part to end the violence.
"I have never felt that we truly had gangs," said District 4 Commissioner Sammie Sias. Despite multiple shootings in one South Augusta neighborhood, Commissioner Sias said the violence is not the gang problem we think we might have.
"We have some young folks and some folks who want to stake their territory per say," he explained.
At least one of the shootings happened in Sias' district, a shooting on Wakefield Ct. in the Spanish Trace subdivision that took place June 13.
But many took place in District 5 around Meadowbrook Drive where Andrew Jefferson serves as commissioner.
"It's summertime, the weather's hot, school is out. Young people have more time on their hands than a little bit," he said adding that a lot of times arguments start outside of his district and reach a head within the district.
Commissioner Jefferson agreed with Commissioner Sias in that the gangs in Augusta are probably not organized such as the Gangster Disciples and the Vice Lords. Both elaborated and said that is because there is usually a point of contact and a hierarchy. But the violence stems from disagreements according to Jefferson, many times after hours. His solution? Get home by 11 p.m.
"We have a curfew in Augusta Richmond County," he said. "If we can get some help from families to impose that curfew during most of the times most of these shootings happen. Most of the people would be at home hopefully watching television or asleep."
Jefferson also said he gives more than 20,000 people in his district an opportunity to voice their concerns during a quarterly breakfast, but only around 100 people come.
In District 4, Commissioner Sias said he's noticed a drop in shootings after sheriff's deputies and homeowners began attending monthly neighborhood association meetings. He said there are meetings in each neighborhood, including the Spanish Trace area where a shooting recently took place and the Sand Ridge neighborhood where he doubles as Commissioner and neighborhood association president.
"So you're going to always have some level of nefarious and illegal activity. The main point is to always report that and make the authorities aware of that when you think something like that might be going on," he said.
L.C. Myles Jr. is the Fairington Town & Country Neighborhood Association President in Sias' district. He said he can attest to the drop in crime due to people coming together with law enforcement.
"We have the Marshal's Department, we have the Code Enforcement come in, we have the Sheriff's Department at every meeting," he said.
Myles said he noticed that most of the issues pertain to drugs or gang problems when there are shootings, but having a neighborhood free of trash with a police presence is key. He added that his fellow homeowners know which deputies patrol their area and they are not afraid to report suspicious behavior. Of course, he said it helps when they attend meetings and are present to easily report problems.
"They kind of give you some insight on what you can do and some things you can do to prevent some of these larcenies and shooting and break-ins and so forth," he said.
Commissioner Jefferson said his quarterly breakfast meeting with his district will be July 21 at 9 a.m. at the Henry Brigham Community Center.
Various neighborhood associations in District 4 happen monthly.
Photojournalist: Mark Gaskins
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