Since the creation of Richmond County’s collision reconstruction team, calls for assistance from crash investigators at the Georgia State Patrol have been few and far between.
Richmond County sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gay said calls for assistance diminished quickly after the local team was formed in 2011. The state patrol’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team is requested only in serious accidents involving deputies.
One of the last cases the team worked in Richmond County was the March 2, 2011, accident in which Michael Perry, 17, and Sarah Riffe, 13, were killed when they were hit by William Shore as they walked on McCombs Road.
Capt. Tharon Dukes, the commander of the team, said most larger agencies have their own teams.
“The role of the state patrol since it was created was to help the smaller rural agencies that don’t have the resources we do,” he said.
Reconstruction teams are used in fatal or near-fatal traffic accidents to look at evidence and prepare a case for prosecution.
There are five teams of six troopers, spread throughout the state.
In 2011, the Richmond County sheriff’s Serious Traffic Accident Response Team of 10 officers handled 45 cases, which previously might have been handled by the state patrol.
The state patrol’s reconstruction team started in 1998 with three troopers covering the entire state, but gradually grew as requests for assistance increased.
The Gainesville team handles requests in the Richmond County area, while the Reidsville team takes over in Burke County. Teams are typically within two hours of their service area.
Dukes said having larger agencies with their own reconstruction teams helps with the caseload.
“We’re spread kind of thin,” he said. “We have a very large area and six people trying to cover that area.”
In 2011, teams across the state opened 311 investigations. The teams had a 96 percent conviction rate in the 109 cases that went to trial.
This year, teams have worked more than 100 cases.
The average investigation for a case takes about four months. Dukes said he expects a sixth team to be formed in the next year in the Atlanta metropolitan area.