After receiving certification from Georgia’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Council in June, officers got actual uniforms, acquired three more patrol cars – thanks to the Augusta Commission, which voted to donate used Richmond County Sheriff’s Office cruisers – and now have full arrest power. Officers, who previously didn’t carry firearms, are also strapped with Glock pistols.
Paine police Chief Joseph Nelson, who was hired in March, has added seven certified police officers to the force and expects to add more. He said the transition will help to bottle up crime campus-wide.
Officers will have their work cut out for them, though. In 2012, there were more than 46 criminal incidents, including 18 burglaries, 12 simple assaults and four petty thefts, according to The Augusta Chronicle archives.
Nelson answered five questions for The Chronicle via e-mail, explaining how the transition has helped the fight against crime:
Q: Why was it important to make the change from safety department to a police department?
A: It was important to make the transition … to a full-fledged police department to ensure the maximum level of security. Safety is vital for our students to have the best environment to receive a quality education without any distractions.
Q: What are the advantages of a police department over a safety department?
A: Certified police officers can make an arrest on a law violator. Also, a police officer properly uniformed has more of an authoritative presence than a security officer, and would act as a better deterrent to possible criminal activity.
Q: How have the upgrades (better equipment, certified law enforcement officers, new patrol cars, etc.) helped to increase security on the campus?
A: The upgrades have greatly enhanced our security measures. We are more mobile and more visible. We can investigate cases now and make lawful arrests to rid our campus community of criminal activities.
Q: What aspect of the transition was most difficult? Least difficult?
A: The wait from (the Georgia’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Council) approving the new police department. The least difficult thing was staffing certified officers to come here and work, thanks to Augusta Tech and other law enforcement academies in our area.
Q: Has the increase in security resulted in a decrease in crime? Are there fewer people coming onto campus (who shouldn’t be there) to commit crimes?
A: Yes, crime is certainly down, and having marked patrol cars and uniformed certified officers here has definitely been a deterrent. These have all aided in keeping unauthorized persons off this campus.