AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) —- According to Sheriff Richard Roundtree, 75 percent to 90 percent of gun-related crimes committed by young men in their teens and early 20s’. He says the increase in gun violence is, unfortunately, part of the area’s gun culture.
“We have to go in these neighborhoods and education these individuals that it’s not socially acceptable to be walking around at 12, 13, 14 years-old thinking you need a firearm to walk around the streets of Augusta,” explained Roundtree. “That message has to get out there too, and I will be blunt with it because all our homicides have involved people in the African American community. It’s a cultural issue that needs to be said and needs to be addressed.”
It’s a tragic incident that has been dominating the topic of discussion in the CSRA. Most people are wondering what led Alvin Hester to allegedly shoot and kill narcotics investigator, Cecil Ridley.
“Why in the world would he want to try to shot an innocent individual that is out there trying to take care of the neighborhood,” said James Quarles. “His mother gets in trouble right now, who is the first person she is going to call; she is going to call the police.”
James Quarles is a mentor with the 100 Black Men of Augusta Inc. The goal is for a group of black men to be positive role models in the community to young African American boys, to steer them away from trouble.
“We are hoping we continue to bridge that gap, to create that male image for these young men that have nothing to do,” said Quarles. “To be pressured all the time by the peer pressure by those bad boys that are around them.”
Quarles says there are several reasons these young men are getting in trouble with the law in Richmond County. He says most of the time, they are influenced by peer pressure or having issues at home.
“The bottom line is they want attention,” said Quarles. “If they can’t get it, they show out.”
The Sheriff’s Office is trying to educate communities, that it’s not socially acceptable to carry a gun to walk the streets of Augusta. In fact, Investigator Ridley was part of a newly created initiative to get illegal guns off streets.
Groups like the 100 Black Men of Augusta, the responsibility may go beyond law enforcement; so they are trying to lend a helping hand.
“That’s our main focus to reach them,” explained Quarles. “As well as keep them from going that wrong road, to make sure they take the right path.”
James Quarles says the organization is looking for more role models in the community.
Photojournalist: Will Baker