Exclusive interview: Sheriff Richard Roundtree addresses crime surge

Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 7:50 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - After six homicides across the river region in the past six days, we sat down with the Richmond County sheriff.

Five homicides and five shootings. And Tuesday night, shots were fired at the Chevron gas station at East Boundary and Broad Street. Then on Wednesday night, deputies responded to gunshots on Greet Street near Sibley Street.

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office tells us gang activity is behind at least two of the deaths. Deputies say they’ll be upping patrols and road checks in areas recently impacted by gang violence.

We sat down with Sheriff Richard Roundtree to discuss the problem and solutions.

Roundtree: “I’m the father of two African American boys. I see what’s happening. It’s heartbreaking to me to keep one, seeing these young African American males die, and two, having to send other ones to prison. Then parents calling me being upset that I had to send their child away to prison. That’s why I’m trying to send a message now that this is a choice. This can stop. This can stop today, either voluntarily or it’s going to stop by force.”

News 12: What outside resources have you asked commissioners, the community and city-level leaders?

Roundtree: “There’s been a reduction in crime. It’s just that we have these anomalies, these upticks. That’s when people want to say crime is running rampant, but crime is actually decreasing these last ten years. But to keep crime at a sustainable level, the community has to be involved. We’re talking about civic leaders, faith-based organizations, and our county government. All these groups and the neighborhood have to be invested. I’ve said it many times before you can’t just arrest your way out of a problem. You can’t lock your way up. That’s all some of these individuals know. That’s all they’ve ever seen. That’s all they’ve been exposed to. They know nothing else. There are no programs for them, there’s no events, there’s no accountability, and that starts at home, and then it spills over into the community.”

News 12: Has there been outreach to churches or community centers?

Roundtree: “Unfortunately, that’s with all organizations to include the government. We have a bad habit of not following through. We show our initial concerns, and then we don’t follow through. That’s the message that I’ve been saying for the last ten years. My new message is that if you’re ready to throw your life away; if your intent is to achieve to spend the rest of your life in prison then we’re going to make that wish happen for you.”

News 12: Back in January, we talked about this being a generational issue. Is this a similar situation?

Roundtree: “When I said this is generational violence issue, now it escalated, in essence, cultural genocide. We have black kids killing black kids and then black kids going to prison for doing it. That is what’s happening now. That is the reality. That is something that needs to be addressed. That is something that needs to be said. That is something that needs to be spoken about. No one wants, especially when someone loses a loved one, want to defame their name by saying it’s because they were involved in a gang. What we’re saying is, there’s a gang nexus that’s causing the shooting that has happened. It’s not like we’ve stopped policing, and like I said, I’d like to attribute it to another bad week, but it’s my job to not have another bad week.”

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