The safety of the back alley behind Buffington’s, the Brick, and Blackbird in Downtown Milledgeville is in question after two incidents involving weapons were reported to the Milledgeville Police during the month of October.
“This is a small, sleepy little town, but it has the same crime and same problems that any other city has,” said Major John Davis from the Milledgeville Police Department.
The first incident occurred around 10 p.m. on the night of Oct. 1. According to witnesses, a man pulled a knife on someone but ran off when confronted.
The second incident occurred a few days later around 1 a.m. on Oct. 6. A man was reportedly making threats and brandishing a gun in the back alley. He was arrested later that night.
This back alley has been a place for college students and Milledgeville residents to socialize.
On Tuesday, Nov. 6, Buffington’s hosted Throwdown For Your Hometown, a social for GC’s sorority Phi Mu and fraternity Kappa Sigma.
Ryan Harris, a junior accounting major and a member of Kappa Sigma, was attending the social that night and hanging out in the back alley with two of his fraternity brothers. When informed of the two incidents that occurred just a month before, Harris expressed no concern for his safety.
“There are three guys, so we’ll be fine,” Harris said.
When two Phi Mu sorority sisters heard the same information, they felt differently.
Sophomore Blake Kroll, an early childhood education major, said she has hung out in the alleyway countless times before.
“I wouldn’t continue to hang out here because I don’t want to get stabbed or shot, and it’s not well lit,” Kroll said. “There’s a lot of hiding spots for criminals.”
Her sorority sister and sophomore Aysha Roberts, an early childhood education major, agreed with Kroll.
“It’s sketchy,” Roberts said. “I mean just look at it.” Other members of the community also expressed their opinions on the safety of the downtown alleyway.
Maj. John Davis, who has 19 years with the Milledgeville Police Department, explained that both the Milledgeville Police and GC Public Safety patrol the downtown area by foot and car to make sure students and other people are safe.
“Anything can happen at any time,” Davis said. “Violence, by and large, is not common in that area.”
Davis also provided tips for college students and other downtown visitors to keep in mind when going downtown at night.
“Stay in groups, stay together and stay in lighted areas, and you’re far safer than going in back alleys,” Davis advised. “Of course, we’re driving constantly during those times, too.”
Taylor Withrow, a 38-year-old photographer and employee for Sinclair Oconee Homes, found the alley to be safe for college students, considering he has lived in multiple major cities across America, such as St. Louis and Orlando.
Withrow said he has hung out in the back alley several times a week for the past 19 years. According to Withrow, in the past seven years, he has personally only seen three or four fights break out in the area.
Buffington’s employee Trinity Shaw, a GC sophomore biology major, said she spends most of her time at Buffington’s and frequently hangs out there when she is not working.
Even after these two incidents occurred at her place of work, she expressed that she still feels very safe while on the job and will continue hanging out there.
“If there’s ever an issue, the people that work here are cool and will help you in a second,” Shaw said.
If incidents like these continue, it could not only affect customers and employees of downtown establishments but also other businesses that have back doors leading out to this alley.
A few doors down from Buffington’s, Bradley Sowell, a music teacher at GC, is going into his fifth month working at Milledgeville’s only downtown coffee shop, Blackbird Coffee.
On weekdays and Saturdays, the beloved coffee shop stays open until 10 p.m., and on Sundays, it closes at 9 p.m.
According to Sowell, Blackbird’s dumpster is located in the back alley.
“I will be more concerned with colleagues that go outside at night,” said Sowell after being informed of the two incidents that occurred in the alley. “I wish that we could have more of police presence downtown every day of the week. It would put out an air of safety for people.”