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County leaders meet with congressman on violence

By Justin Boron

When 16 of Clayton County's leaders met with a local congressman to discuss funding for fighting gang violence, there was no shortage of ideas on how to spend the money.

But by the end elected officials from law enforcement agencies and local governments agreed on a "unified approach" toward the problem, U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Georgia said.

Representatives from all of the county's governing bodies met Wednesday and hashed out the ideas for the money.

"In recent months, our families, constituents and communities have expressed growing concern about the gang and violent crime activity in Clayton County," Scott said. "We pledge to unite on one accord at the local, state and federal levels to work collectively toward a single goal of strengthening our county and its families and preventing negative and external gang influences from finding fertile ground amongst our youth and our communities."

The 13th district congressman also told several officials they are eligible for federal grant money to fight gangs, which have become a flash point for a community grappling with urbanization.

Local leaders have spearheaded several initiatives, hoping to cool the hot spot of violence within the community over the past two months. The grants could be used to add more evening reporting centers, which are alternatives to detention for juveniles awaiting adjudication in the court system, said Juvenile Court Chief Judge K. Van Banke.

The county already has one reporting center in place.

Sheriff Victor Hill suggested using grant money to implement crime analysis equipment so law enforcement agencies can detect areas of criminal activity before they escalate out of control.

"It needs to be a central system where we all put our crime in to it," he said.

County Commissioner Wole Ralph said the money should be used to galvanize public input into the problem.

Staff writer Ed Brock contributed to this article.