Display of crosses painted by kids going back up in Thomson to curb gang violence

THOMSON, Ga. (WJBF) - - The recent spike in gang violence in McDuffie County prompted the community to join together to help put a stop to the crime. 

We recently sat down with Thomson's Police Chief John Seay immediately after a rise in shootings there.  He pointed to gang violence, criminal activity that caused ten drive by shootings and two homicides in 45 days this summer.  But one local man is putting the tragedies on public display again and getting help from Thomson's most innocent people to help put a stop to it. 

Candido Wilson started back in 2017 with his vivid display of Thomson's violent crime victims. 

Now, along with his 90-year-old adopted grandfather Thomas Culbreth, he's making twice as many crosses after authorities told him to take the others off the McDuffie Achievement Center near Pine Street and MLK.

"I noticed when the crosses were up last time the murders had stopped," said Wilson, who calls himself an anti-gun activist.

The 47-year-old Thomson native said he worked out a deal with lumber company Culpepper Ace and he fronted the cost to put up 100 crosses in Thomson.  

And those crosses will go up, with the help of kids from the Boys & Gilrs Club, two-by-two. One cross will have the name of the person killed and the other cross will not have a name at all.

Wilson said, "Maybe we can save a kid's life by letting them do it so no one will be painting their names on it.  Also, the two cross message is these people died and not only they died, but the family died." 

From tikes to teens, kids in green shirts all painted crosses white representing the after life.  Wilson also invited gang members via social media to come be part of the experience too.   

Chikita Hill, who lives in Thomson Housing Authority,  said the kids painting the crosses sends a message to them before tragedy strikes them. 
"We're losing a lot of our kids through gun and gang violence. We want to show these kids that there is a different route out," she said. 

It's a route 13-year-old Aldrekious Tucker hopes he can take to avoid being the next victim.

"They need to stop shooting.  People should not kill each other," he said. 

The crosses will go up on Thomson Housing Authority Property on Pecan Avenue, an agreement Executive Director Kelly Evans made with Wilson.  It's all part of this weekend's National Night Out to end violence.  Evans told us this will also be the launch of the housing authority's neighborhood watch.

Hill hopes the Thomson she knew before crime went up in 2010 returns. 

"Watch and keep an eye on everything to make the community a lot safer so our children can come out and play and bring back the harmony," she said. 

You can see the crosses at National Night Out Friday at the Thomson Housing Authority.  There will be free food at 5 p.m. and the movie Black Panther will be shown around 8 p.m.



Courtesy Video: Kelly Evans

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