Request for crime panel withdrawn

ASU official says interest is spurred

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Augusta State University Athletic Director Clint Bryant on Monday withdrew his request to the Augusta Commission to establish a crime task force, but he said his concerns remain.

"I feel that it can be done without necessarily going through the commission and having them involved to set it up and so on, and still get the type of accountability and help and support that I think we need in our community," Bryant said.

Through lengthy conversations with Sheriff Ronnie Strength, Bryant said, he had determined that the creation of a group "giving citizens an opportunity for being part of the solution" was more likely with the direct involvement of the sheriff, but that his request had spurred interest.

"I floated it out there at the commission, and it's a buzz people are talking about -- how do we fight crime?" he said. "I even think our commissioners -- maybe they've put it at some priority on their agenda."

Strength said more discussions would be needed before a citizens group could be formed.

"I'm not in a position to say yes; I'm just not there," the sheriff said. "We're looking at some things, and he and I in the future will be meeting."

The commissioners had other concerns during committee meetings Monday, including a new 263-page personnel policy and procedures manual that they will sit down to review with City Administrator Fred Russell on Friday.

The document simply tweaks many existing policies and procedures, but also allows the administrator "to make some decisions that are currently commissioner decisions," Russell said.

Shifting functions such as the reclassification of employees from the commission to the administrator will ease the "slowness" and burdensome nature "of some of the kinds of decisions we have to make," he said.

Commissioner Matt Aitken said he was comfortable with what Russell and other staffers had drafted, but Commissioner Bill Lockett was not.

"Trust but verify," Lockett said, citing a long career in human resources.

After the committee meeting, where Lockett, Aitken and Commissioner Jerry Brigham approved it, Lockett said several recent commission agenda items -- the personnel manual, Russell's plan to restructure Augusta government and a proposed revision of Augusta's charter -- were moving too fast.

"They're trying to push this thing through, and I know there's some stuff in there that's borderline," Lockett said.

In other action

Despite opposition from Thurman Norville, the director of nearby United Methodist Children's Home, the Augusta Commission's public services committee on Monday OK'd a retail beer and wine license for Aficionados, 307 Eighth St.

Norville said the area already was frequented by the homeless, for whom another alcohol retailer would increase traffic; owner William Williamson said the establishment would cater to shoppers with a median income of $75,000.

The committee also approved a bid for $4.8 million to Reeves Construction to add 1,000 parking spaces at Augusta Regional Airport.

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Asitisinaug
4
Points
Asitisinaug 01/25/11 - 04:03 am
0
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Until the following changes

Until the following changes are made, you simply don't have the resourses from the commission that the Sheriff's Office needs.

1. The commission has cut 38 sworn officers (Deputies) in past years - These positions should be re-funded immediatley. The RCSO has a call volume double that of any officer in a neighboring county - you simply can not be as effective when you are responding to calls instead of having time to be pro-active and do communtiy policing.

2. Commissoners have furloughed the remaining deputies 2 days last year and 5 days this year. These furloughs amount to thousands of less man hours each year in law enforcement services. The reduction in traffic enforcement alone would have paid for these unnecessary furlough days.

3. The commission cut an additional $750,000.00 from the Sheriff's Budget this year. This has resulted in many cuts to service and training for officers. The Sheriff simply can not afford days off for deputies to train as he needs every officer on duty. This is a disaster waiting to happen and places the deputies and citizens in further harms way and may also result in a law suit towards the county easily costing more than the origional budget cut.

4. RCSO Deputies are the lowest paid deputies from GA Sheriff's Offices of comparable size and even many others (including ones in the CSRA) which are far smaller with lower call volumes. This results in the RCSO having more difficulty in recruiting the best deputies around and retaining the many fine deputies they currently have. To add insult to injury, the deputies have actually received a pay cut the past 3 years due to increases in insurance premiums. Furthermore, when you deduct all of the pay from the furlough days, instead of putting on a gun, vest, and badge to protect the citizens of Richmond County, you could simply say "My Pleasure" as you serve Chick-Filet sandwiches for the same pay.

5. A large majority of criminals dealt with in Richmond County are repeat offenders with multiple felony offenses. The court system and judicial system is NOT DOING THEIR JOB CORRECTLY when these repeat offenders continue to be released back into our area. Violent Criminals need to be behind bars, period.

6. The commission is failing to acknowledge their primary function for Richmond County is our Public Safety. They fully fund unnecessary golf courses, pay for their own cell phones and gas, take trips with their wives at the tax payers expense, fund various social programs, continue with twice a week trash service and alot more than 5 million towards public transportation while shorting public safety the needed funds to properly reduce crime in the area.

You don't need public groups, citizens activists, marches for peace, etc. near as much as you need to properly fund the Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff is fully aware of his needs and has made this clear to the commission who chooses to ignore it. There are plenty of professional organizations in place that have extensive research in proper salaries for law enforcement officers and the number of officers needed to properly police a community such as Richmond County. Unfortunately, we are sorely far from where we need to be on both counts.

Funny how we have $4.8 million for new parking at the airport (which should be fully funded by parking fees) and is rarely over 75% full and yet we can't even fund public safety to the level of years past. Well, actually it's not funny, it's absurd.

Riverman1
94247
Points
Riverman1 01/25/11 - 04:51 am
0
0
The division between the

The division between the Sheriff and the people continues. Community policing is the only practical way to make a dent in the crime and the hard part is happening. The community is reaching out to help. Bryant, the Harrisburg group and others have all pointed out the need for community policing only to be met with disdain. Law enforcement has to work for the people, among the people and be the people. Sooner or later changes will come and it's hard to understand the resistance on the part of the Sheriff. Thanks for trying, Mr. Bryant.

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 01/25/11 - 07:49 am
0
0
Thankfully, this

Thankfully, this poorly-thought out notion of a city-funded commission to prevent crime has been tabled. Hopefully, a stake will be put through its heart soon. I am in favor of privately-funded commissions and privately-funded neighborhood associations to attempt to prevent crime, but not commissions city-wide and city funded. One problem I see is that loud-speaking people are demanding that the sheriff's office be responsible for preventing crime. Wrong idea. I want my sheriff's office to investigate crime, collect evidence that is admissible in court, apprehend criminals. I am not comfortable with spending precious resources on community policing that Riverman mentions above as a prevention measure. Prevention should be up to us civilians. Let the officers "catch 'em and latch 'em."

Little Lamb
49247
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Little Lamb 01/25/11 - 07:53 am
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Speaking of apprehending

Speaking of apprehending criminals, has the sheriff's office nabbed the perpetrator of the double homicide involving the two young women victims downtown late at night last month? You know, the one where one of the women was driving the tricked-out Cadillac Escalade?

Emerydan
10
Points
Emerydan 01/25/11 - 01:39 pm
0
0
It seems that all Mr Bryant

It seems that all Mr Bryant was asking for is to get a group of people together to do some brainstorming on ideas to help curb crime. And in these tough economic times, when money simply isn't there to significantly increase funding for the sheriff's office (oh and by the way their budget was actually cut by nearly a million for this fiscal year), then we are going to have to start looking at more innovative ways to use our law enforcement personnell more efficiently.
Also, a one-size fits all approach to policing is simply not going to work in a city as broad and diverse as Augusta, where you have and urban core and rural hinterlands closer to downtown Wrens, than downtown Augusta. The Sheriff's office cannot do this all on their own. They can simply enforce the laws the best they can with the resources available to them. But getting more people in the community involved could be a valuable respurce to augment The Sheriff's dept. It's also going to take stronger sentencing (no more slaps on the wrists).. that involves the courts and judges.. and maybe now is the time for state legislators to take a strong look at our sentencing laws. Maybe we need to look at giving longer prison sentences to repeat offenders and violent offenders.. and not so much for the 18 year old arrested for first time possession of pot.

We also need to take a serious look at community based policing. It DOES work! I encourage anyone to read the Broken Windows theory and supporting empirical evidence that shows its success in cities nationwide. This means getting neighborhoods involved, the average citizen, so they can act as the "eyes and ears" for the police. It seems all Mr Bryant was proposing is to build a network of community leaders and community organizations to help strengthen what the sheriff's office is trying to accomplish.

No, you cannot PREVENT all crime.. no police dept in America can do that. But a stronger police presence in the community with stronger ties to the community can be an effective DETERRANT for crime, as long as it is backed up with strong courts getting the repeat offenders off the streets, and not the revolving door we have now.

This was not about "ursurping" anyone's authority.. Mr Bryant made that quite clear. And this was in no way some deputized vigilante squad as some seem to be making it out to be. Unfortunately in Augusta, leaders seem to be more concerned about power and turf wars than actually taking a hard look at good ideas that have been proven successful elsewhere that can work here. Let's not forget that this myopic attitude of many federal agencies before 9/11.. who were more concerned with protecting their power base and their turf than in cooperating with other agencies, left us extremely vulnerable, and thus we missed alot of the tale tell signs that lead to the worst terrost attack in American history. We are going to have to start thinking of this crime situation in terms of terrorism, because you have entire neighborhoods being terrorized by this threat. It is adversely affecting the quality of life and the property values in Augusta. And while we sit around and do nothing ( the Augusta answer for nearly every problem) more and more people will continue to leave and take their tax dollars with them, and that will leave us even less revenues with which to give to the sheriff to combat crime in this city.

But, I do think Mr Bryant may be taking a better approach by avoiding The Commission. He should do this DIRECTLY with the sheriff's office as the sheriff is an independent constitutionally elected officer. All he could expect from the commission is endless committee formation and stalling tactics. Go straight to the sheriff with this and work directly with him and hopefully he may eventually see the value in a community-based policing approach, atleast in the areas known for having the highest incidence of crime. What we are doing now clearly is not working. BUt its going to take more people in the community getting involved like Mr Bryant and Lori Davis... not turning them away. It seems that our local government is telling concerned citizens to simply go away. What an awful message that sends.
On a sidenote, I think it would be great for Mr BRyant to have his daughter come down and present her study on crime trends in Augusta, because they seem to differ greatly from what The Sheriff has been saying recently. I mean the first thing we need to do is have everyone on the same page that there is a problem.

Lori Davis
1006
Points
Lori Davis 01/25/11 - 02:49 pm
0
0
I would like to encourage all

I would like to encourage all who post and all who have an interest in the crime problem in Augusta to start reading and educating yourselves on the value of Community Policing. Many cities are beginning to go back to this idea of proactive policing. It does work.

MysteryWriter
0
Points
MysteryWriter 01/25/11 - 04:28 pm
0
0
RE: Funny how we have $4.8

RE: Funny how we have $4.8 million for new parking at the airport (which should be fully funded by parking fees) and is rarely over 75% full and yet we can't even fund public safety to the level of years past. Well, actually it's not funny, it's absurd.

The Augusta Aviation Commission has its own separate funding from the General Fund of Augusta/Richmond County and comes from the airfares and fees paid for flights out of Augusta Regional Airport at Bush Field. This money is used for upgrades and such at the airport. Not tax dollars.

Riverman1
94247
Points
Riverman1 01/25/11 - 04:37 pm
0
0
Little Lamb, community

Little Lamb, community policing not only works to prevent crime which should be the goal of all of us, but it also works to assist law enforcment apprehend those who have broken the law. I really don't understand what you mean by not wanting law enforcement to prevent crime. That prevention seems like it should be their chief function.

Riverman1
94247
Points
Riverman1 01/25/11 - 04:42 pm
0
0
Clint Bryant and the others

Clint Bryant and the others are bending over backwards to not step on Strength's toes. The call to move to community policing has somehow turned into an us against them thing once again. Let's all be quiet as Clint is doing and "let Strength come up with the idea" we have put forth. Ya know?

Asitisinaug
4
Points
Asitisinaug 01/25/11 - 07:52 pm
0
0
Riverman1, you are correct in

Riverman1, you are correct in your statements of community policing. And, yes, it certainly is the job of all law enforcement officers to be pro-active in reducing crime or preventing it from happening in the first place.

That being said, with the current level of police on the streets in Richmond County combined with furlough days and greatly reduced budgets, our cops can ONLY respond to calls. Their current call volume (double any nearby agency) barely allows for response and report writing much less community policing.

If it wern't for many businesses and neighborhoods paying off duty police officers to patrol there wouldn't be any pro-active law enforcement in Richmond County and this is ridiculous. Businesses and homeowners already pay more than enough taxes for adequate police services but the commission fails to properly fund the Sheriff's Office.

Riverman1
94247
Points
Riverman1 01/25/11 - 09:11 pm
0
0
Asitis, I'm completely in

Asitis, I'm completely in agreement with you that the Sheriff's Office needs more funding and officers better pay.

Bulldog
1333
Points
Bulldog 01/25/11 - 10:14 pm
0
0
Community Policing is the

Community Policing is the answer to the urban decay that has become central Augusta. You don't have to be an expert to understand that the "old days" are just that. Gone and over. The concept of Community Policing succeeds everywhere it is tried. It's time for a wake up call!!! We need leadership in law enforcement that can move with the times.

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