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Atlanta 'coming together' to quell violence against black children

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From the continuing anguish here over the murder of 11 ad disappearnce of five other black youths in the past 16 months, has come: * An outpouring of concern that transcends racial, religious, and economic differences.

* Actions by a number of citizen groups to guide parents and childrenin practical steps to take to reduce the risk of further tragedy on the streets.

* One of the nation's most intense criminal investigations to find the killer , or killers.

* Lingering accusations by some of the mothers of the children, and others, that the Atlanta Police Department moved too slowly in gearing up their investigation.

* A glimpse into the world of black ghetto children today.

The tragic events that might have led to racil tensions or confrontations between blacks and police has instead led to cooperation to solve the murders and avoid further ones.

Church groups and civic groups have been organizing programs on safety measures for children. Their message: Know where your child is at all times; instruct him or her never to ride with anyone -- stranger or not -- without parental permission; know your child's friends and how to reach them in an emergency.

White business leaders, among others, have contributed to a reward fund that now totals about $150,000. Thousands of residents, including many whites, have joined in the several organized searches for clues and the remains of victims.

"A lot of good is coming out of this," says Chi Chi Mcgraw, a black businessman helping the bereaved mothers. "This city is coming together."

Almost all of the children came from low-income families in various parts of the city, usually from homes with no fathers. The children range in age from 7 to 15. All but two were boys.

Most of the children were abducted in broad daylight.

Theirs was a world, says Mary Sanford, a black public housing tenant leader here, where children are often left on their own; a world where three-year-olds stand on chairs to stir up food for themselves; a world where they know hunger in spite of food stamps.


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