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Q&A with CPD Chief Stacey Cotton

COVINGTON, Ga. - With summer months coming to a close, The Covington News editorial staff sat down with Covington Police Department (CPD) Chief Stacey Cotton to discuss crime trends in Covington and what the department is doing to continue to protect the community.

The News: What kind of crime problems did the city see during the summer? Will those subside now that school is back in session?

Cotton: We always tend to see a rise in our juvenile issues during the summer because obviously kids who are not in school have more time on their hands and no parental guidance does call for an increase in that. There’s two trends that I think are our biggest concerns right now, it’s the increase in A: the juvenile crime and the severity of juvenile crime and the increase from people from out of town committing crimes in Covington and those are juvenile and adult offenders.

The News: Does the CPD have any efforts in action to stop the crime before it gets here for the out-of-towners?

Cotton: Who do I know that’s coming down I-20 right now and what gate could I put up on I-20 to keep them out? And I ask that, not to be downgrading but, when I say that to people I get looked at like I have three heads. 65 percent of who we locked up show they’re not from Covington, they’re not even Newton County addresses. That is a new trend. That is something we’ve seen probably a lot more in the last three years. We’re seeing that in entering autos and thefts, especially down our business corridors. If we have a crime, normally here in Covington, if it’s a local person they’re going to tell somebody. They’re going to tell somebody and somebody’s going to tell somebody that snitches for us and we’re going to solve it. We don’t have that with these people so a lot of those crimes are difficult for us to solve because we have no idea where they even came from.

The News: What do you see as crime trends in the city and where are they going?

Cotton: I don’t know if there are any trends that are troubling me. I don’t think there’s any one particular thing. A lot of this stuff is tied back to drug activity, you know, obviously supporting people’s drug habits or they’re under the influence of drugs and they want to do this to support their stuff. The thefts we see are coming from the outside. We’re being inundated from things coming from the outside and their ability to, what they’re doing is they’re hitting in our business areas, our retail areas. That’s the trend that has kind of flip-flopped. It used to be most of our crime was in residential areas and it would be localized within a community and now that’s kind of taken a back seat.  

The News: Meth, opiates, alcohol or Interstate 20: Which is the bigger contributor to crime in Covington?

Cotton: That’s a difficult one. I would probably have to say depending on if it is criminal activity I’d have to say I-20 and meth. If we’re talking about domestic violence, argument calls, fight calls, disagreements, things like that. I’d have to attribute that to alcohol. We’re not really seeing a whole lot of, in Covington, a whole lot of opiates. We know opiate stuff is going on, but we haven’t really seen a huge amount of it. We’re getting a little bit of the drugs, but marijuana is a bigger thing.

The News: Are gangs a problem in Covington?

Cotton: In Atlanta, not locally. We’re being affected by the gang activity in Atlanta, but not at the local level. I can’t speak on anything but inside the City of Covington, but our gang activity is – and this is going to sound the same – still at the juvenile level with entering autos and small, petty-type crimes. With that said, the Atlanta gangs, the real, true adult gangs: normally when we deal with something, we don’t come across adult gang members in Covington. When we’re dealing with juveniles who may be part of an Atlanta gang they are obviously backed by adults because of the sophistication of what it is they’re doing. Somebody has come down, lots of times you can tell, they’ve come down and somebody’s scouting ahead so they know what they’re going for. That’s probably an adult or two – looking at the security systems, looking at the bars on the doors, what it is going to take to breach the doors, where the guns are located, how the guns are locked up, what it’s going to take to get them – and then they go back and explain to the kids what to do and how to do it. Most 15 or 16 year olds are not going to do the sophistication unless somebody teaches them and it’s not hard.

The News: How often do you get together with your commanders to talk about trends and strategy? Is this an ongoing conversation?

Cotton: We have a monthly command staff meeting and what we do, we base ours – and I’ve always done it for 20 years now as the police chief and did it in the old days – as a comp stat, similar model to what the New York police came up with back in the early 90’s. Over the last four or five years, we kind of changed to more of an intelligence-based policing, where we try to look at intel. We’re looking, not just at the numbers that occurred last month, but at intelligence, you know, who’s doing what, where are they coming from, some of the things I’ve shared with you today. It’s not just we locked up a bad guy, it’s where did the bad guy come from and why.