Patrols will be added on Hill

A large group of Hill residents met Monday night and agreed to hire extra police patrols to thwart a recent rise in burglaries.

About 300 residents representing the newly formed Peachtree Place to Glenn Avenue Neighborhood Association, agreed to pay a fee to hire off-duty Richmond County sheriff's deputies to work special shifts.

Sheriff's Sgt. Richard Shiflett said the deputies would be hired to patrol Hill neighborhoods that have been recent targets of break-ins and thefts. Neighborhood association organizers collected money from residents throughout the meeting.

Sheriff Ronnie Strength also addressed the crowded parish hall at St. Mary on The Hill Catholic Church.

In addition to safety offering tips, such as locking doors and removing car keys from ignitions, Sheriff Strength said the rise in crime is linked to his department's shrinking deputy force.

"We have 30 fewer deputies than we had in 1997," he said, referring to a period when his office once received funding from the COPS (Community Oriented Policing) federal grant program.

Augusta commissioners Don Grantham and Joe Bowles told residents about their plans to target county-generated funds to help increase the Sheriff's Office budget.

Mr. Grantham said increasing the sales tax from 7-percent to 8-percent could make a difference by targeting more expenditures toward public safety.

Neighborhood association members said extra patrols will be added immediately, but they would not disclose police patrol destinations for security reasons.

Reach Timothy Cox at (706) 823-3217 or tim.cox@augustachronicle.com.