A reduction in violent crime and drastic increases in traffic enforcement are just two of the most wide-reaching effects Burke County Sheriff Alfonzo Williams points to in his first 100 days in office.
Violent crime dropped from about 150 cases in 2015 and 125 in 2016 to 55 this year, according to information Williams presented Tuesday at a media briefing. Traffic enforcement, which includes citations and warnings, has increased 334 percent. Williams said about 200 percent of that increase is warnings.
“If we can do this in 100 days, you can imagine what we can do this year,” Williams said.
The changes he has made in office have ranged from the cosmetic to technological to the creation of new teams. All of the changes collectively, he said, appear to have made a more efficient and safer agency that can better serve the people of Burke County.
He began his term by meeting with each employee to exchange ideas. The discussions, he said, helped employees understand the direction the agency was heading and their expectations. Part of the change included the creation of multiple new teams, including community services, K-9, SWAT, narcotics, professional standards and others.
The professional standards team is helping the agency prepare for state accreditation certification. To be approved, the agency must be able to meet 129 standards. Williams said many of the changes the agency is now seeing are from the state accreditation checklist.
Technological changes are helping to bring the agency into the present. Prior to Williams’ arrival, the agency did not record 911 calls and did not have mobile data terminals or GPS in police cars. Also, only a dozen of the sheriff’s office’s 90 employees had e-mail addresses. Williams and his staff are working to address those things. More technological upgrades include streamlining and updating the county’s sex offender registry.
Training and duty weapons are also seeing changes. All officers, including those working in the jail, are now equipped with stun guns. Jailers hadn’t been armed with any weapon and had no choice but to go hand-to-hand with combative inmates. All officers have new 9 mm handguns, and a vest program with more than $45,000 in donated funds is helping to fit them with body armor.
“We believe if we are going to professionalize ourselves then we have got to be at the forefront of training, having the latest and best practices, so we’re doing that at the sheriff’s office,” Williams said.
To match the other changes, the sheriff’s office is changing its look. Williams said administration spent many of its first weeks updating the sheriff’s office building, by cleaning the carpets, repainting and rehabbing unused space to create more usable space for offices and evidence rooms. The deputies will also get a new look, with tan and dark green uniforms, which match the new decals on police cruisers.
With the first 100 days over, Williams said he and his staff are already creating a strategic plan for the agency’s extended future. Williams said it will build on the changes he’s already made at the agency.
“We’re going to help to contribute to the economic development of the county,” he said.
Reach Bianca Cain Johnson at (706) 823-3486 or firstname.lastname@example.org.