Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength said whoever is elected to succeed him next year should concentrate on catching criminals and not worry about rehabilitating them.
“The next sheriff is going to be elected to enforce the law, not to be a social worker,” Strength told those gathered at the Julian Smith Barbeque Pit for the monthly meeting of the Augusta Richmond County Committee for Good Government.
Strength, a longtime member of the group, was the group’s speaker Tuesday. He told those gathered that it would probably be the last time he spoke to them as sheriff before he retires in January. He encouraged the group to support his friend, Republican candidate Freddie Sanders, when they went to the polls in November.
“I would greatly appreciate it for you to get out and work for Freddie to make him sheriff,” he said.
Strength said other candidates have made juvenile crime and the problems facing the youth of Richmond County an issue in the sheriff’s race, but he said it wasn’t an issue the sheriff could effectively address.
He said there are other agencies and programs that are better equipped and staffed to deal with the causes of youth crime and its associated problems.
“My job has always been to lock ’em up and I don’t apologize for that,” he said.
Strength said most of the “hundreds of millions of dollars” spent every year on juvenile issues are focused on the wrong end of the problem. By the time most teens get involved in youth gangs and criminal activity, it is often too late to intervene, he said.
“We need to get started with the 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds,” he said. “We need to spend money on the 14-, 15- and 16-year-old girls who are having these babies. Somebody has to teach them how to raise these kids.”
Strength said American society was to blame for a lot of the current social ills because citizens failed to stand up when prayer and corporal punishment were removed from schools, when abortion became available to teens without parental permission and sexually provocative images became commonplace in the media, among other things.
“We reap what we sow,” he said. “The old school is gone, but I was lucky enough to be part of it.”