Local church to launch safety map for students

It has been over three months since the shooting death of University at Albany student Richard Bailey, but the far-reaching affects of this and other violent crimes is still being felt in the city of Albany.

Pastor Charlie Muller of Victory Christian Church in Albany has previously taken up the cause of reducing violent crimes through a gun buy-back program and other youth outreach programs. His latest plan is to try and help college students become more aware of their surroundings by producing and distributing a map of Albany showing locations where crimes have taken place.

"It's going to be ready for the students coming back to college in the fall," said Muller. According to Muller, the map is going to be very detailed, outlining not only crime areas but also other points of interest in the city and areas where gang activity takes place.

". It's going to be very detailed, which is why we're taking our time," Muller said.

Muller is working with the District Attorney's office to carry out research for the production of the map. The map will be a huge undertaking for Muller and his church with a budget of $20,000.

The map will be a laminated, foldable map, and there are no immediate plans for a digital version.

"We will probably eventually get it online," Muller said. "Right now we just want to do a map that you can have on your person."

While Muller has been in contact with some student groups from University at Albany for help with research for the map, he has not been in contact with leaders of the local colleges.

"We're kind of doing this on our own. We're going to try and get permission to distribute on campus," Muller said. He hopes to distribute not only at Saint Rose and University at Albany, but also other colleges in the city.

Others, however, question the need for this map.

"It's already been done," said Director of Security Steve Stella. Stella points out the the Albany Police Department has a crime mapping program already in affect on its website. The Times Union website also features a map that shows homicides in the capital region.

"If you take a peek at that you'll wonder why Charlie's doing what he's doing," Stella said.

Stella was quick to point out all of the other work that Muller has done to fight violence in Albany and to feed neighborhood children. Those students that live close to campus may have recieved mailings about his child lunch program. Muller also offered a $1000 reward for the gun that killed Richard Bailey.

"He's doing a lot with trying to suppress gun violence and I've always admired his feeding children," Stella said.

While Stella is not resistant to the map idea, he does not think that Saint Rose will have a large involvement with the program.

"Any information will help. I don't think it will be official College of Saint Rose information," Stella said.

Muller is probably best known for instating a gun buy-back program in Albany. The program, originally funded by the church and later receiving legislative funding, offers Crossgates Mall gift cards to those that bring in handguns or rifles - no questions asked. While the effectiveness of gun buy-back programs is not entirely known, as of last week Muller and his program have collected 150 guns.

Last Monday Muller recieved the Directors Leadership Award from the Albany FBI. He was presented the award at Victory Christian Church, and in March will travel to Washington D.C. to meet with the 55 other recipients of this award.

The gun buy-back program was started last year after 10-year-old Kathina Thomas was killed by a stray bullet outside of her home.

Muller said he also plans on distributing the map to area residents, because "Kathina Thomas's mom, if she knew that on First Street where she was moving that there was so much gang activity and already three people were shot on that corner up there, I don't think she would have moved there.

 © Copyright 2009 The Saint Rose Chronicle

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