Macon Police plan to reduce gang violence, target youth

Last Monday, Macon Police Chief, Mike Burns, presented the Youth/Young Adult Violence Reduction Plan to the Public Safety Committee.
“Well, the Mayor asked me to come up with a plan because we had a lot of shootings in a short period of time,” said Burns.
The plan was previously presented to the City Council. Chief Burns’ plan is actually one component of Mayor Reichert’s BEST Plan, which, as explained by Burns, stands for Build our community, Educate all our children, Safety in every neighborhood and Transit throughout all our region.
Burns and a few members of his staff created the safety component.  “Our plan is to address what we have going on and to address the next generation,” said Burns. He hopes to help address issues with the youth during earlier stages in their lives.
The Macon Police Department already has a five-year plan that they are currently working with.
“Overall shootings are down from last year. Actually, we have had 38 people shot this year. This time last year we had 55 people shot around this time in September. Last year there were a total of 72 people shot, and this year we have about half as much,” Burns said.
While Burns’ statistics show that numbers are down, public perception is one of the main issues that the police department faces. The nineteen-page plan calls for hiring six new police officers, and calls for instituting more programs that intervene in the lives of citizens ranging from ages 13 to 30.
One program outlined in the plan is called Eddie Eagle. “We’ll have a mascot dressed as an eagle. The program would teach the youth about what to do if you see a gun,” Burns said.
Also included in the proposed plan are more programs like the Police Athletic League, which is designed to keep the youth off the streets and involved in organized activities and to provide an after-school mentoring program that can help students with homework or computer skills.
Another proposal is to take youth on field trips to professional baseball or basketball games and to other areas outside of Macon. “I want to be able to get the youth out of the neighborhood and show them things that they’ve never seen before, so that maybe the youth will be encouraged to stay in school,” said Burns.
The plan mentions other partnerships such as partnering with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to try to get weapons off the street and the National Gang Task Force, who would teach classes on what to look for in relation to gang violence.
“We tried to hit every part of the community. We would also encourage the Citizens Police Academy more, which is a city-wide neighborhood watch initiative that can include those 18 and older with the more mature members to help mentor,” said Burns.
The safety component is just one part of the overall plan that the mayor has constructed, but in order for it to work, Burns believes that there has to be a collaborative effort amongst the community, especially from the schools, parents and teachers.
The Youth/Young Adult Violence Reduction Plan has been tabled upon further discussion. Chief Burns believes that the Public Safety Committee has reservations concerning the costs it would take to implement the program and would like to see more towards the enforcement side of safety.