In light of a recent spate of burglaries, armed robberies, drug arrests and car break-ins in Newton County, The Covington News editorial staff sat down with Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown to get his take on crime trends and what steps are being taken to combat them.
The News : What kind of crime problems did the county see during the summer? Will those subside now that school is back in session?
Brown: One thing in particular, as always, we see an increase in the Part Two crimes – the burglaries, the entering autos, false alarms, breaking and entering, vandalism, we see those types of crimes. There always seems to be an uptick during this time of the year. One of the reasons why goes back to, as I’ve always said, a lack of activities for the youth to be involved in. I’ve always said an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. We as a community, myself, including you and everyone else, to include the citizens and politicians, even the faith-based community, have to come together and try to create some form of activities for our youth to keep them actively involved in what I would say are positive, stimulating things.
The News: Just to follow up on that, do you think the new Boys & Girls Club will help with that?
Brown: I certainly believe that it will be a benefit. I can’t see where the Boys & Girls Club would be something that would be problematic to the community if it is operated properly. Our goal is to be actively involved in the Boys & Girls Club. As a matter of fact, one of the deputies here with the Sheriff’s Office is actively involved in spearheading it and I am allowing him to take part in that because I want the office of sheriff to be one of the faces that’s going to be there with the Boys & Girls Club because it means a lot to me, because I know that if it is operated properly, then we know it’s going to change the mindset and also give activities for the youth to be involved in.
The News: What do you see as crime trends in the county and where are they going?
Brown: Well, that was a good question that you posed, the reason being, I was in Atlanta just on Monday and I was with all of the leaders in the metro area and there were questions being raised by those leaders in the metro area indicating that they see crime moving to Newton County. They see and they hear of more crime moving into Newton County. That’s alarming to me. That’s one thing we have recognized, and particularly on the western side, because that’s where our population growth is. It also connects to Rockdale County, and I think Rockdale County has had their share of problems out of the metro area. You know, all of us are considered as metropolitan area, but I think the fact that a lot of it is pushed out of Fulton County over into DeKalb. DeKalb pushes it over into Rockdale and we’re trying our best to keep it on the Rockdale County side. We make no bones about that’s what our intent is. That’s is very concerning to me. That’s one of the reasons I always mention to the board of commissioners about staffing. Staffing plays a key issue in being able to put the manpower out there to combat those types of crimes that we are very concerned about and that is those violent crimes coming in.
The News: Meth, opiates, marijuana, alcohol or Interstate 20: Which is the bigger contributor to crime in Newton County?
Brown: I think a lot of it is the unknown that’s passing through. We never get the opportunity to see or capture those individuals, but we do know that meth is on the rise here in Newton County. It is an epidemic here in Newton County and that’s very concerning and alarming, because many of the cases that we’re involved in, in particular, when you look at the thefts and the burglaries and so forth, it seems to be that meth is connected with it some way or the other. We still have that issue with marijuana. Opiates, that’s one of the things, I think, that slipped through the net, but I do see an increase or an uptick in the arrests in those crimes related to meth.
The News: Are gangs a problem in Newton County?
Brown: There are issues in Newton County, and I think as long as you have a community, again, where you have individuals who have nothing to look forward to, who have nothing to believe in, who have an idle mind, again, become not only a danger to themselves, but a danger to the community. So, we are very concerned about that and we’re doing everything we can possibly do to combat those problems. We hear of gang activity and as soon as we hear of gang activity, we do our best to saturate those areas and make sure we can root it out. That’s our goal. We’re not going to be in denial and say that we have no gang problems. I think I would be foolish to even lead the public to believe there are no gang issues.
The News: How often do you get together with your commanders to talk about trends and strategy? Is this an ongoing conversation?
Brown: I talk with all of my command staff. We have a regular monthly meeting – that’s with every supervisor. And then, after we have that monthly meeting, we break off into command levels and we continue to an ongoing dialogue. So, to say how many meetings we have in the course of a month, there may be five meetings in the course of a month. It depends on the need. That’s the driving piece. For instance, since we’ve had a lot of activity here in the last two weeks, we meet daily to determine strategies in terms of what we’re going to do and how we are going to address the issues and concerns the community is facing. And one of the things that we have always wanted to put out to the community , even though we may see an uptick in crime, one of the things we want to assure the citizens of this county is that Newton County is a safe place to call home.