Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown assured a crowd of dozens of concerned citizens that crime is down in their neighborhoods, and they urged community leaders that they want that trend to continue because they still feel threatened.
Georgia House Representative Pam Dickerson hosted a town hall meeting on crime for the residents in the Fairview Corridor of the west side of Newton County Saturday and several topics were brought to the attention of BOC District 3 Commissioner Nancy Shulz, Newton County Community Partnership Director Laura Bertrtan, Newton County Juvenile Court Judge Lisa Mantz, Newton County District Attorney Layla Zon and Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown.
Calls are up, crime stats are down
Brown handed out an information packet showing, in numbers, the crime occurring in the Fairview Road corridor.
Among the things listed in the packet were that the Newton County Sheriff’s Department began to see a significant increase in residential and auto burglaries in subdivision located off of Fairview Road in May 2014. Starting on Aug. 27, NCSO manpower was reallocated from other division to focus on the Fairview Road area.
According to Brown there has been a 13 percent reduction in Part I crimes (homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and vehicle theft) since Aug. 27. Since that date there has also been around 50 arrested made, more than 40 citations written and approximately 200 warnings given.
Allocation of resources
Brown said a chief asset in keeping the crime down would be more resources, something NCSO deputies have been asking the Board of Commissioners about for a while.
“I remember 20 years ago you had one car patrolling the county and that was plenty,” Brown said. “Now we have eight cars patrolling and it’s not near enough.”
Shulz told the crowd that the budget for NCSO and the county as a whole has been connected with property values. She said in 2008 — when up to that point there was a boon on the west side — there was a 55 million budget but property values have dropped 20 percent since then, also dropping the tax digest available to spend on programs within the county.
Among the items paid for out of the tax digest were both criminal apprehension and criminal prevention. Mantz and Bertram told the crowd of programs available to help educate some of the youth who may be perpetrating the crimes in the Fairview neighborhoods — programs that are also paid for with the county’s tax digest.
Go to jail, stay in jail
A main issue of the concerned residents was the fact that a lot of it was being done by teenagers under 17 years old.
These youngsters both get multiple chances and don’t have opportunities to stay productive outside of school.
Citizens at the town hall said they see the same people over and over again trying to commit crimes.
One female resident even expressed her feelings of fear for her daughter, who knew who was trying to break in to their home but was scared to say anything. A male resident of Fairview Chase shared that he saw the same teenagers doing drugs at the neighborhood parks, but couldn’t get them to stop, once bringing out a baseball bat.
Zon shared a story of someone who had been arrested for cocaine possession and was sentenced to 30 years in prison to serve 15 and was out of jail in 18 months. She then suggested if he was sentenced to life in prison he would be out gain in a couple of years.
Using that example she explained the Recidivist statutes, which is the three-strike rule for a repeat criminal offender, and how the citizens could help with stiffer punishments.
Residents helping their own community
Each member of the town hall panel suggested ways to help the Fairview community, chief among them were bringing criminal activities to the attention of public safety. If NCSO or district attorneys knew of prior misdeeds they would be able to keep them in jail longer, or ask for stiffer punishments.
“I get the sense that you feel powerless, you’re not powerless,” Zon said. “We cannot stop this without you. You have to stand up.”
Here are some of the ways for Fairfield corridor, and residents in general to keep law enforcement in the loop and help prevent crimes:
*call NCSO’s anonymous tip line 678-625-5007
*attend Board of Commission meetings
* call commissioner (in District 3) Nancy Shulz for improvements to your neighborhood at 678-625-1202