One Sumter gathers community together to discuss crime

Published 7:54 am Saturday, February 11, 2023

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Tracy K. Hall

Long before the recent shootings, One Sumter in conjunction with Americus Police Department and Sumter County Sheriff’s Office have been planning a summit addressing crime in the county. On Friday, February 3, the community gathered to have a facilitated conversation lead by the Fanning Institute for Leadership Development of The University of Georgia. Georgia Power sponsored the event. The group was very diverse with good representation of women and men, African American and Caucasian, male and female, faith based communities and employees in the private and public sector. Chief Mark Scott of the APD stated, for almost two years this event has been planned with the hopes of getting “the right people into the room at the right time to address violence.” Sheriff Eric Bryant stated he was looking for “different ideas and creative ways to connect with the element.” All the leaders seemed to be working under the assumption that a community response and conversation was required because the experts on this community live in this community.

The Fanning Institute gave the results of a survey they sent to the group. There was an ability to see the perception of our home. There were some really uncomfortable items to look at and own. The group went about the conversations despite how difficult it might be. Such perseverance is needed when taking on such a large topic as crime rates and behaviors. Perception of causation were presented, and in the comments of the survey our approaches and what we found important were sometimes very much aligned and at others, in sharp contrast.

Some of the goals identified for the summit included creating awareness, ownership in the community and creating a road map to move forward. This is but step one of defining and improving the fabric of our community. The group met for five hours to take a look at what we can bring to the table. There seemed to be consensus this is a worthy cause and deserving of our energy. Criminal behaviors are complex and deserve a well thought out plan. There are many pieces of this puzzle and require more than just a law enforcement approach.

Sumter County took time to sit with some tough questions and in the sitting, some determined they have much to offer. Others will only feel the need to participate for a small amount of time, where others, fewer in number, will see the project through. The next steps include gathering more information and community input. Some walked away with an immediate action plan, where others simply planned to remain willing to participate. There is a follow up meeting at the end of March. Information will be forthcoming.

This is not One Sumter’s first travels into tackling some tough questions. As designed, they identify certain areas that need intervention to secure growth for the county. Perhaps some of the most well known are the Ignite College and Career Academy and expanding broad band internet. They are doing some important work to further develop both the business infrastructure as well as securing a robust work force. The foundation is funded with private dollars of this community. It was established when community leaders started identifying the trajectory of the county and they realized if the community didn’t begin to work on their own behalf, the quality of living would suffer. Every four years One Sumter identifies what areas need to be examined and intervened on. Because of the corrosive nature crime has on many systems in the county, it remains an area which One Sumter is dedicated. To learn more about One Sumter visit or visit their Facebook page of the same name.