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What are deputies doing about Augusta’s deadly crime rate?

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 6:36 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - New numbers show Augusta ranks as one of the deadliest cities in the nation.

The latest statistics from the FBI’s 2019 crime data stats show a 0.3 percent increase in the number of people murdered across America. Augusta ranks with the 32nd highest per capita murder rate in all major U.S. cities.

How can this kind of data help curb crime in Richmond County?

We spoke with an Augusta University professor who shared insight into the common interest he shares with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office to help reduce gun violence.

“We know what works, were not lacking resources, but I think we are lacking a willingness to invest,” said Dr. Todd Powell Williams, associate professor of sociology and criminal justice.

Williams has spent years analyzing gun violence data in Augusta to help decrease gun violence.

“What we have found in those two years gun violence archive misses about 60 percent of gun data that happens locally,” he said.

Williams and the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office Intelligence Division use that data to target and talk to people at risk of being victims of gun violence. Those talks are where the program Augusta Gives Back comes in. The Augusta Gives Back Program started in 2019 and is still active.

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“Right from the jump, it’s designed not to be threatening, not to be cohesive,” said Williams.

The program offers a number of services including mental health counseling.

“Housing, job training, helping them get their GED, substance abuse counseling,” he said.

The idea is to rethink policing and use data to prevent crimes instead of only tracking them.

“They say ‘look we have reason to believe based upon your network ties and background you are at risk of being a victim of gun violence in the future. We have a program that can help you avoid that’,” he said.

A deadly crime wave

Just this week, there have been at least two shootings in Augusta.

Monday around 9:30 a.m. on D’Antignac Street, a few blocks from Laney High School, one man was shot. His condition is unknown. Deputies are also investigating a shooting Sunday night at the Dogwood Terrace Apartments on Old Savannah Road.

And on Sunday, a vehicle passenger fired on deputies during a traffic chase on Tobacco Road.

Deadly crimes in the CSRA since April 14 include these:

  • On May 7, the body of Joseph McKinnon, 60, was found at 102 Tanglewood Drive in Trenton. Authorities determined he’d died of a heart attack after strangling and burying his girlfriend, Patricia Dent, 65, in the yard.
  • Late May 3, Charles L. Bradley, 49, of Aiken was found shot dead inside a car at Hampton Avenue and Assembly Street in Aiken. The shooting was one of three gunfire incidents that night in Aiken. No one was hurt in the other incidents.
  • A shooting just before 7:30 p.m. April 23 claimed the life of Rodriquez Dunn, 31, at the Olmstead Homes in the 2100 block of B Street in Augusta. Dunn suffered at least one gunshot wound and died at the scene.
  • On April 19, Brittany Dougherty was found slain outside a vacant home in the 1500 block of Conklin Lane. Her death was considered suspicious from the start, but within hours the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office ruled her death a homicide.
  • On April 18, Johnnie Coleman was found shot dead in the 1900 block of Old Savannah Road. Authorities released a photo of a car suspected to have been linked to that slaying. Kelvin Lewis, 33, has been arrested as a suspect in the murders of Coleman and Dougherty.
  • Jenefer Holt Herron, 52, of Augusta, died late April 18 after being shot during an argument outside the Circle K at 1739 Walton Way in Augusta. Suspect Yelena Buckner, 33, of Augusta, was later found and arrested on charges of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime, deputies reported.
  • JaJuan Russell, 21, of Augusta, was fatally shot early April 17 in the 3700 block of Oslo Road in Augusta. Russell was taken to Augusta University Medical Center.
  • Sandersville police found the body of a man April 16 inside a home on Gwendolyn Street while responding to a report of a domestic dispute at the address. Santavious Louis Roberts, 35, of Sandersville, was arrested.
  • Brandon Peebles, 24, of Girard, was shot around 10:45 p.m. April 14 in the 2300 block of Prague Court. He was pronounced dead at 11:23 p.m.

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