The Georgia State Patrol responded to twice as many wrecks as usual in Augusta last month because of a new arrangement with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office aimed at freeing up deputies for other calls.
In August, the state patrol and the sheriff’s office decided on times of the week where the help would be best used. In September, the two agencies began a four-month trial run, to be analyzed at the end of the year.
“It makes for a stronger law enforcement presence,” state patrol Lt. Donnie Smith said.
Smith said the local state troopers usually work between 50 and 75 wrecks a month.
Last month, they worked about 120.
Other large local governments have made similar arrangements with the state patrol, including Athens, Gainesville and Gwinnett County, Smith said.
“Declining budgets are a reality everywhere,” he said. “We want to help where we can.”
Smith said less money means fewer deputies on the street, and the arrangement keeps deputies from being stuck directing traffic for hours during a wreck investigation.
Sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gay said the partnership has been working well.
The troopers are contacted by Augusta’s 911 center if they carry a Richmond County radio, Smith said. Otherwise, the call is routed to them via the local communications center in Grovetown.
At year’s end, the two law enforcement agencies will review the arrangement, including whether the troopers have met the sheriff’s required response times.
The state patrol will also have to discuss the partnership with the incoming sheriff to see whether it continues, Smith said.
So far, both sides say it has been helpful.
“It frees up the local law enforcement to combat other crimes,” Smith said. “And allows us to do what we do best, which is traffic citations and wrecks.”