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'Community policing' working, Waynesboro chief says

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WAYNESBORO, Ga. -- Yolanda Hart wants her son to grow up thinking of the police as his ally, not his enemy.

Waynesboro Police Chief Alfonzo Williams says his community policing initiatives are working well.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/FILE
EMILY ROSE BENNETT/FILE
Waynesboro Police Chief Alfonzo Williams says his community policing initiatives are working well.

“People around here have a hard time trusting the police,” she said. “But I want Jamal to think different.”

Hart, a resident of Magnolia Acres, in the past a high-crime area for Waynesboro, said her 3-year-old son often will play catch with one of the patroling officers who drop by a few times a day.

“They (the officers) are good about talking to the kids,” she said.

Her opinion is why Waynesboro Police Chief Alfonzo Williams says his community policing initiatives are working.

After taking the post in February 2011, Williams said he immediately put programs into place that directly resulted in a drop in crime in the area. Some of those include putting more officers on patrol, creating a citizen’s police academy and a citizens on patrol program.

“We had an aggressive plan,” he said. “We came in and worked that plan.”

According to a 2011 Annual Report from the department, robbery dropped 62 percent from 2010 to 2011. Burglaries were down 37 percent and assaults were down 21 percent for the same time.

Ward 2 City Councilman Herman Brown, the chairman of the public safety committee, said the drop in crime in Waynesboro has been obvious since Williams took over.

“I can tell by looking through our paper crime is down,” said the 5-year council member. “The reaction from the citizens has been overwhelmingly positive.”

When Williams became chief, the first thing he said he did was restructure the department.

The agency underwent a “massive restructuring,” including the hiring of a new assistant chief, investigative supervisor, housing authority police officers, road patrol officers and a housing authority supervisor. He also assigned two K-9 units to existing officers and hired one part-time traffic officer.

Before Williams took over, Waynesboro had two officers on at all times. Now it has four to seven.

“Stepping up the number of patrol officers has helped,” said Officer Antonio Burton, adding the Waynesboro policemen are more apt to do what needs to be done if they have readily available backup.

Five officers left when Williams took over, and Brown said he knew there were some people who were upset with the restructuring of the department. However, he said after it was done, he noticed there were less officers who called in sick.

A few months after Williams became chief, “the officers told me they liked coming to work now,” Brown said. “They said it was enjoyable.”

He also said he has seen an increase in the number of officers around town, and patrolling areas that were not being covered before.

Once the internal department issues were worked out, Williams focused on his community oriented policing and problem solving, or COPPS, initiative.

One idea Williams immediately put into place was the citizen’s police academy, which he said is for people interested in law enforcement but never had time to pursue it.

The department held classes for one hour a week for 10 weeks, each class focusing on a different area including Georgia law, criminal investigations and shoot-don’t shoot training exercises. After completing the course, Williams’ hope is the citizens will go back to their neighbors and friends and share what they learned. Through the relationship forged with officers during training, Williams hopes more people will become aware of crime and suspicious activity and will be helpful to law enforcement in the future.

“We want to show the people of Waynesboro we are totally transparent,” he said. “They can come through the doors or call us anytime.”

The citizens on patrol program is one Burton said has been a big help for the patrol officers.

Volunteers are put through a training class where they are taught basic police skills. When they graduate, they are allowed to check out the citizens on patrol car, which is clearly marked, and ride around any part of the city they choose. When they spot suspicious activity, they call an officer.

“They can see a lot we can’t,” Burton said. “People don’t duck and hide from the car because they don’t think they can do anything. That allows us to come in and find things we wouldn’t normally find.”

Overall, Williams said he is satisfied with the direction the department is headed. He said he will continue focusing on community policing and interacting with the citizens of Waynesboro.

“We have restored the public’s trust,” he said. “Moral is up, pay is up for the officers and we have remained fiscally responsible by reducing overtime. Plus, crime is down significantly.”

Burke County Sheriff Greg Coursey agreed Williams’ approach seems to be working. He said his deputies are now rarely called in for backup.

“It’s a lot easier on us,” he said. “He has been more proactive than reactive. You can tell the difference.”

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itsanotherday1
41879
Points
itsanotherday1 06/03/12 - 05:59 pm
5
1
Hats off to Chief Williams.

Hats off to Chief Williams. As I stated on a previous article about his approach to policing; maybe he would like to move to Richmond County and run for sheriff.

csraguy
2220
Points
csraguy 06/04/12 - 10:54 am
5
1
Great Job Chief & WPD Officers

Great Job Chief Williams, keep up the good work. Community Oriented Pro-Active Policing Strategies work well at reducing crime and fostering an appreciation for law enforcement. Your implementation of reserve officers along with citizen advisors acknowledges the fact that officers can't do it alone and takes the appropriate actions for reducing crime.

bclicious
668
Points
bclicious 06/04/12 - 03:36 am
3
3
HECK of a lot better than what everyone else is doing!

Outstanding foxtrot standing job there Chief Williams!

You guys are making a difference. Especially compared to those other non-functional departments such as: Harlem, Wrens, Wadley, & Thomson.

Chief Williams maybe you should consider charging money to teach the other departments how to actually police.

JohnBrownAug
1962
Points
JohnBrownAug 06/04/12 - 04:52 am
6
0
Excellent, Chief Williams. I

Excellent, Chief Williams. I hope everyone gets the concept of community policing from this fabulous example. Remember those who brought the idea up and argued in favor of it in the face of much opposition.

seenitB4
85152
Points
seenitB4 06/04/12 - 06:55 am
4
0
Good luck Chief....

Good luck Chief....

lifelongresident
1323
Points
lifelongresident 06/04/12 - 07:54 am
0
0
hey augusta and outgoing
Unpublished

hey augusta and outgoing sheriff strength, what you see here is called "community policing" getting the police out into the community to meet and get to know the people they are assign to protect...not having a substation in an area of town with very low crime rates, as we all know not to police but to protect summerville, meanwhile you have empty substations in high crime areas such as cherry tree xing and on old sav annah road, i guess you believe the mere sight of a substation will deter crime

JohnScott213
10
Points
JohnScott213 06/04/12 - 09:09 am
6
0
Community Policing

Contrary to what some people think, community policing DOES work. This article shows one example. Unfortunately, complacency within a department on the part of some veteran officers can be an obstacle to implementing reforms/policy changes. I suggest Richmond County voters pay close attention to what the candidates are saying, specifically in the area of community policing. Sure, arrests and the number of crimes solved looks good when it comes to stats, but it is high time RCSO becomes more proactive than reactive. I hope voters understand that at the ballot box.

CarlA
114
Points
CarlA 06/04/12 - 10:43 am
4
1
Community policing has been

Community policing has been successful in many cities and towns. Scott Peebles is the only candidate in the Richmond Co Sheriff's race that recognizes this.

Itsallnew11
547
Points
Itsallnew11 06/04/12 - 10:59 am
2
0
Congrats Chief!

As a 38 year resident of Burke County I have, in the past, rarely felt as comfortable and safe as I do now that Chief Williams is at the helm. Some have complained about your supposed bias decisions where staff is concerned. Those people are just opposed to change when it involves their friends not being the best person/people to move forward with these changes. I applaud you and all of your staff for taking a stand against crime and for taking back the streets of Waynesboro. Many Blessings for all of your future endeavors and for the safety of you and your team. God Bless you all!

seenitB4
85152
Points
seenitB4 06/04/12 - 11:34 am
1
4
Hahha

How many times can yall pat ole Scott on the head....even on other threads about OTHER Chiefs....too funnnie....
Got some work to do Freddie....guess we need to pat you EVEN MORE!

Birds of a feather ...maybe??? lol

Khan'tB4Real
948
Points
Khan'tB4Real 06/04/12 - 01:06 pm
1
3
SeenIt
Unpublished

More like a nest of snakes than birds of a feather. No maybes about it. Lol

Conservative Man
5429
Points
Conservative Man 06/04/12 - 03:51 pm
3
1
Concerning the comments about

Concerning the comments about Freddie. I'm assuming it was about Freddie Sanders who said he is absolutely AGAINST community policing. I've been one of those who have been calling for it in Richmond Co, while watching the success of Chief Williams...Hopefully whoever the next Sheriff is here will implement it as soon as they take office.....

seenitB4
85152
Points
seenitB4 06/04/12 - 05:15 pm
3
0
Community Police

I remember months-months ago when some posters brought up comm. policing.......(riverman esp.) at that time NO one thought it was a good idea now everyone has jumped on the band wagon.....amazing how things change around.....
That is one facet of policing......what I was referring to is how some take EVERY opportunity to put SPs name in every article on here....

I have advocated some retired-experienced policemen help on the weekends with the sheriffs office.....some don't think that can work---well it did in the past & most did it for the love of the job/city & not for pay...we all have our ideas of what would help don't we.....
Someone with the knowledge of the law & policing can do wonders for the force...if anyone knows where the crooks are... a lawyer does..:)

JohnBrownAug
1962
Points
JohnBrownAug 06/04/12 - 07:54 pm
2
0
SB4, yep, that's all part of

SB4, yep, that's all part of community policing. Getting the reserve program moving, getting the community to help out in various ways. What Chief Williams did was remove that wall between the community and the officers.

We heard the most off the wall comments from some earlier that officers couldn't go into some of those neighborhoods and so on. Huh?

The community is going to welcome an officer, THEIR officer, and help him. His police car is going to be a deterrent parked there now and then. People know a cop is around. The residents don't need to fear or dislike officers, they need to know and respect them. But the officers also learn lots about the people and lose THEIR fear of them.

Freddie Sanders is coming around slowly as this sinks in, I believe. He wants the RCSO to do its level best upholding law and order and this is the best way to accomplish that goal.

csraguy
2220
Points
csraguy 06/04/12 - 08:31 pm
2
1
SB4

I do agree, this article is about Chief Williams' and the Waynesboro PD's success and that is what the comments should have been about. However, you criticize some and then promote another at the same time - seems a slight bit contradictory. Either way, no big deal really.

What happened to RiverMan or OMR as Austin would say? He was always great for conversation and a big supporter of law enforcement just not specifically the current Sheriff. BTW, there were others that promoted community policing as well, including myself and that was something we agreed on. However, he would hit Strength on "not being a social worker", which frankly, the Sheriff isn't a social worker - his primary focus should be law enforcement but at the same time, the Sheriff's summer youth camps that Webster use to have as well as things such as the police athletic leagues and explorers are all programs an agency such as the RCSO should have. Unless Freddie Sanders has done a 180, he absolutely is 100% against the community policing philosophy and the programs such as COPS Community Oriented Policing Services and has clearly stated so in 2 open forums.

I agree 100% with you on the use of retired officers so long as they can do the job and exceed POST requirements the same as full time officers and reserve officers. I also belive many that may would like to work but are not up for the physical challenge could greatly assist the criminal investigation division with information gathering and other duties.

The above article touches the tip of the iceberg as to what can happen with a great leader with the right philosophy for progressively moving this county forward.

I have no reason to knock Freddie Sanders, he will be elected as the republican candidate hands down. However, if we fail to elect Scott Peebles as the democratic candidate, it will be Freddie vs. Roundtree in a 70% democratic county in a general election and statistically Roundtree will be the next Sheriff. His personal file as a police officer combined with thousands owed in back taxes does not make him a good fit to be our next Sheriff.

raul
4536
Points
raul 06/04/12 - 08:52 pm
4
0
@csraguy. Riverman aka OMR is

@csraguy. Riverman aka OMR is still working the comment boards on the Columbia County Times. I take it he had a run in with the AC and is banished, either temporarily or permanently as a commenter. I say he has served his penance and should be brought back, live on our stage...Riverman (crowd raves!!!).

seenitB4
85152
Points
seenitB4 06/04/12 - 08:53 pm
3
0
csraguy

I'm only doing what many of you do on here --time & time again...
You will have to ask AC where Riverman is....

You should have a little more confidence in South Augusta......many want the BEST candidate for the job....color won't matter......funny thing about crime--it hits everybody....

Anyway ...may the best man win...seeya -- past signing off time for me..

seenitB4
85152
Points
seenitB4 06/04/12 - 08:55 pm
4
0
Raul

I agree with THAT!

I say he has served his penance and should be brought back, live on our stage...Riverman (crowd raves!!!).

csraguy
2220
Points
csraguy 06/04/12 - 09:20 pm
3
0
Raul & SB4

Raul, thanks for the update, do miss his posting on here.

SB4, I understand, like I said, no big deal. I have plenty of faith and friends in South Augusta and doubt very seriously it will be about race (for most people) but don't statistically see a republican winning although that’s just an opinion, anything can happen.

Later, have a good one!

Rebelbuyer
30
Points
Rebelbuyer 06/05/12 - 12:17 am
3
0
Chief Williams
Unpublished

The Chief has made such a difference in the quality of life here in Waynesboro. No more nightly, random gunshots. No more car break-ins. Now we don't have to chain everything down to keep it from walking off of your property. However, the Chief failed to mention the single most important factor in returning Waynesboro to it's law abiding citizens and that is the nightly CURFEW. Having young people off the streets by 10 pm, enforcement of the noise ordinances and the GUTS to enforce the LAW has made all the difference. Thank You Chief Williams!

akmoose
119
Points
akmoose 06/05/12 - 10:39 am
2
0
Citizens Academy

I am honored to say I am one of the graduates for the very first Citizens Police Academy. I have always admired and respected those in law enforcement and Chief Williams is the best! I am so glad other agencies are taking notice of what he is doing and has already done. Makes our little town not so bad of a place to visit. I feel safer that's for sure. The members of the department are professional and efficient and they genuinely care about the people and protecting them with every capability they have.
I do not live in Richmond County and am sorry I can't vote, but I will help push for Scott Peebles. He seems to share the same ideals that our Chief has and I'd love to see it be implemented in the county. I'd love to see it implemented in OUR county as well - Sheriff Coursey sees that it's worked, he needs to take measures to start it in the county. Either that or he'll see his job be taken over by Chief Williams...sure wish he'd run!!!!

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