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Public safety town hall addresses youth violence, jail conditions, police hiring practices in South Fulton

South Fulton Police Chief Keith Meadows said the department looking at the small group of people committing the majority of crimes and using data-driven policing.

SOUTH FULTON, Ga. — Dozens of people who live in South Fulton spoke out at a town hall meeting Thursday to address crime and public safety. Several law enforcement leaders were there to bring some ideas and solutions to the table. 

Leaders narrowed their focus to three things. Those include cracking down on youth crime, fixing the county jail, and who is patrolling the streets.

The Public Safety Town Hall meeting lasted almost three hours at Friendship Community Church. 

City of South Fulton Police Chief Keith Meadows said the department is focusing on looking at the small group of people committing the majority of crimes and using data-driven policing to solve cases. 

“One thing that we’re seeing is an uptick in our juvenile-related crimes," Meadows said. 

Meadows said he often sees the same young people getting into trouble.

“Myself, along with some other members of the police department, have met with the governor’s office to talk about some of those challenges in regard to the juvenile point system," Meadows said. 

That system suggests a juvenile with 12 or more points should be arrested. Meadow believes the issue is each county calculates points. 

“If a juvenile knows he can go in Fulton County and perpetrate crimes, if he doesn’t get caught, he can go to Cobb County, he can go to Clayton County, and in each of those jurisdictions, the 12 points don’t accumulate," Meadows said. 

Leaders are also keeping a close eye on where criminals will wind up once they're arrested. Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat said about 600 inmates sleep on the floor of the county jail

“It’s inhumane, and it’s been so for years," Labat said. 

Labat believes the jail, which was built in 1989, is outdated and too small to comfortably house inmates. 

“We have to build a new facility," Labat said "That jail represents an old way of thinking with just warehousing people. We in a process of creating an environment where we talk about mental health. We talk about re-entry.”

Lastly, leaders want to zero in on who they're hiring to keep everyone in line.

City of South Fulton Councilwoman Helen Zenobia Willis plans to introduce a resolution at next Tuesday's city council meeting banning police from hiring an applicant with excessive use of force issues. 

“We want to ensure that we make sure in the hiring practices we start a standard for quality and not quantity," Willis said. 

Willis said she's also working with Chief Meadows in hopes of bringing back the citizens police academy and police athletic association. 

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