Dear Editor: For the fifth time this year, the peaceful tranquility of our beautiful county has been broken again by another act of murder. I am personally saddened at the loss of yet another community member. My wife and I have been living in Newton County for almost 10 years. We moved here because we felt that it was a safe place to live and raise our daughter. We are now questioning our decision. My wife, who is originally from England, has always had an uneasy feeling about living in the United States because of the perceived crime rate. For years, I have assured her that living in the United States is just as safe as living in England. Lately, I find myself questioning my family's safety in Newton County. In the last year, my neighbors' homes have been burglarized, my neighbor's car was stolen and recently my wife's vehicle was forcibly entered. To say that we no longer feel safe in Newton County is an understatement. However, we feel that we cannot give up on a county that we love so much and we don't want to have to move.
We, as a community, need to find out why this is happening in our community. As a citizen, I have spent numerous hours researching the crime trends in Newton County. I believe the surge in crime is directly related to the closure of the East Metro Drug Taskforce. We need to ask that the drug taskforce be reinstated.
I have worked in law enforcement for over 32 years and personally know that several of the elected officials who disbanded the East Metro drug Taskforce were uninformed about the funding and effects that the disbandment would have on the county crime rate.
During my law enforcement career, 90 percent of the crimes that I've responded to and/or investigated were related to drugs or alcohol. I realized early in my law enforcement career that drugs and alcohol destroy families and communities regardless of race or social status. In 2007, in the State of Georgia there were 22 multi-jurisdictional drug task-forces. However, in July 2007, the number of federally funded drug task-forces in the State of Georgia dropped to 21. The East Metro Drug Taskforce, which consisted of members of the Covington Police Department, Conyers Police Department, Newton County Sheriff Department, Rockdale County Sheriff Department, Newton County District Attorney's Office and the Rockdale District Attorney's Office, voted to disband a 17-year operation, even though the federal government was awarding between $177,721 to $263,440 a year to fund the drug taskforce. Instead of having a multi-jurisdictional drug task force, our appointed and elected law enforcement officials decided to have the Newton County taxpayers fund their own Special Investigation Unit which would "focus on other crimes." I think Newton County's recent surge in crime would support those studies. If you examine and compare the FBI crime statistics for Newton County and the city of Covington with Georgia counties and cities of similar size and demographics, you'll see that the crime rate for Newton County and the city of Covington are double and even triple the rates of Georgia counties and cities with similar demographics.
This year as newly appointed and elected law enforcement leaders are selected and voted into the senior law enforcement positions within our county and city, we must appoint and elect only those individuals who understand that the root of 90 percent of the crime in our county is related to drugs and alcohol and will reestablish a multi- jurisdictional drug taskforce to focus exclusively on the war on drugs.
Randy F. Upton