Bibb County Sheriff David Davis, and downtown Macon business owners met Wednesday morning to discuss real crime, perception of crime, and reality.
The meeting was put together by the Macon Convention and Visitor Bureau's chairman, Jim David, who said he wants to change the perceptions about downtown crime.
Sheriff Davis said crime in Bibb County has been declining for the last 10 years, saying the biggest problem isn't violent crime, it's actually property crime, like shoplifting, break-ins, and auto theft.
Davis says his deputies walk a fine line in law enforcement.
He says, "You don't want to make it look like we have a police station in downtown, that there's so much law enforcement, because that sometimes reinforces the perception that it is a crime ridden area, but we want to make sure that we have enough people to respond to anything, but maybe not be so in your face about it."
The sheriff said what he considers serous crimes rarely happen downtown, and asked the business owners for suggestions on how to improve the neighborhood's image.
Some owners suggested emergency call boxes, others simply want more police presence.
The Crazy Bull owner Ricky Hill says he's been in downtown Macon for a year and says he and his staff have never been uncomfortable.
He says, "Yes, we have some homeless people down here, that want a dollar or two dollars, or what not, but ya know, they're not going to hurt you, and they're not going to mug you, but its just perception that we've got to change, that we do have a safe downtown."
Hill says he is proud other businesses are stepping up to change the perception.
Hill says, "I mean we are working in the right direction, everybody is working on the same team, and this is just another part of the team that we all got to work together to make it safe for everybody."
And as far as any advice the sheriff can offer right now to help with perception, the Davis says, "Be vigilant, know your neighbors, establish a rapport with your other business owners, if you are plagued with people hassling folks in front of your business get them to leave, call law enforcement, we'll develop a response."
Hill, and other business owners we talked to, understand this isn't an overnight process, but they say they are committed to work with law enforcement and each other to make some positive advances.
The meeting came about two weeks after five people were shot outside Grant's Lounge on Poplar Street. Davis said the meeting was already scheduled before the Grant's shooting.