ATLANTA — The rise in crimes involving children and younger people during the pandemic has raised alarm bells for both victim advocates and those whose job it is to protect them.
On the heels of a 6-month-old child killed during a Monday afternoon shootout, Atlanta mayor, police, the district attorney’s office and advocates all spoke strongly about the need to end this run of violent crimes.
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Channel 2′s Matt Johnson spent Tuesday night speaking to victim advocate Betty Maddox.
Maddox runs a non profit called “Grieve,” which works with the families of gun violence victims. She turned the loss of her 25-year-old son Michael nearly 30-years ago into a way to help others coping with a similar loss.
“I know what it is to bury a child,” Maddox said. “This gun violence, you don’t understand until it after until it actually happened to you.”
Grieve is offering to cover some of the funeral expenses for the family of 6-month-old Grayson Fleming Gray, who died after being hit by a stray bullet while secure in a car Monday afternoon.
Just this year alone, three children have died from gun violence in Georgia and four others were hurt, according to the Gun Violence Archive database.
“Conflict resolution is spilling over into the schools,” Maddox said. “So we got to prevent it before it gets any worse.”
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One week ago, a 5-year-old was grazed by a stray bullet from two drivers shooting at each other on Campbellton Road. The week before that, a mother was arrested after a child shot and killed her one-year-old with a gun that was not secured.
Tuesday afternoon Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Police Chief Rodney Bryant all spoke at a news conference regarding Gray’s death. Willis is in the process of forming a “Court Watch” program, designed to target repeat offenders like the man arrested for Grayson Gray’s death.
“I already have here in my office before this child was shot, 22 child homicides. It has to end,” Willis said. “That Court Watch program will be specifically to watch these repeat offenders as they matriculate through the court system.”
Dickens cited statistics showing how many crimes were committed by younger people.
“Sixty percent of the crime that we saw was conducted by individuals between 13 and 25,” said Dickens. “That’s a societal problem. And as a society, we have to solve it.”
“It’s the community that can have a hand in this,” Chief Bryant said. “We are seeing too many instances where people don’t know how to resolve a conflict.”
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Johnson also spoke with Bishop Michael Canion about the problem. Canion was part of a march for justice after the shooting death of Secoria Turner in 2020. Turner was killed while riding in the back seat of her mother’s car.
Canion said he’s calling on Church and community leaders to come together in an effort to save Atlanta’s young people.
“We get upset and we let it go. And we drift back into our normal,” Canion said. “But when we get into a sustained effort, I believe we can make a difference.”
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