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Police reacting to rise in homicides

By Ed Brock

So far, 2005 has been a more violent year in Clayton County than last year at this same time - and officials are attributing much of it is to gang violence.

There have been eight homicides in the county so far this year, Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner said. Last year by this time there had been two homicides, although by the end of the year there had been 19 homicides total.

"The last part of the year was pretty heavy," Turner said.

Not all of the killings have been gang-related. The first homicide victim of the year, 26-year-old Anthony Hicks of Stone Mountain, was shot to death in Stockbridge after confronting another man on the street. Frederick Radford, 24, of Stockbridge was arrested in connection with that case.

At least one of the homicides was connected to a case of domestic violence. Police say Kimberly Taylor, 23, gunned down Elisha Nicole Brown on April 8 because Brown was with Taylor's former lover Charlotte Harris.

Another case was connected to crime, but not gang activity. In March Rodney Woods, 29, of Atlanta and Manuelo Brown, 27, of East Point were shot to death in what Turner called a drug deal gone wrong at a house near Riverdale.

Yet another high-profile case, the slaying of 2-year-old Xavier Miranda in a failed home invasion of a Forest Park apartment, is believed to be the result of a conspiracy to rob the boy's parents of money from a tax refund.

And, while there were reports of gang members being at an April 22 party where 14-year-old Krystal Williams was hit in the head by a stray bullet and killed, there's no direct evidence of gang activity. But the following night, at another party, 18-year-old Larry Bishop, Jr. was killed in a shooting at another party that Turner said was related to a fight between gang members at Mundy's Mill High School the day before.

"I think gang activity has grown more violent," Turner said.

Gangs have played a role in the increase in violence, Clayton County District Attorney Jewel Scott said, and there may be a "migration of other influences" from other urban areas in Georgia and other states. One way her office is fighting the rise in violence, especially among young people, is to educate the youth and their parents through community meetings.

"Make (the parents) more aware, ask them to be far more vigilant about their kids' associations," Scott said. "A lot of (young people) don't understand that if they get involved in certain circumstances there are really dire consequences."

Turner said the Clayton County Police Department is getting more aggressive on the street in combating youth violence, but much of the battle is up to the people who find themselves involved in dangerous situations.

"They need to learn to walk away," Turner said. "Especially the children."