Being more visible in the community and holding his staff accountable are two of the reasons why crime rates have decreased drastically across Rockdale County in 2014, according to Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett.
During the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners work session Tuesday morning, Levett gave a presentation on the how county crime was trending down.
Overall, there have been 1,446 reported part 1 crimes, which include all crimes except murder and rape, in 2014. That's 470 less incidents from the same time period, January through September, compared to a year ago. That's a decrease of 24 percent.
"I hope that we can keep this number will below the number in 2013," said Levett during his presentation.
So far, there have been three murders and eight rape incidents in the county this year.
Levett thanked his command staff and RCSO Chief Deputy Scott Freeman for helping to drop the crime rates significantly.
"... The chief, I challenge him a lot. I put a lot on him and we communicate every day," he said. "... I challenge him and I make sure that everything is going the way it needs to go. With that being said, he challenges our command staff. I have to give kudos to our command staff because... normally they're seen behind the scenes, in the office behind the desk, but they're in their cars when we have issues and there also patrolling."
The area that has seen the biggest drop off in the county is burglary.
"One of the biggest concerns was the burglary rate," said Levett. "I'm proud to say that our burglary rate is almost 50 percent down."
Following 493 burglaries in 2013, there have only been 257 reported cases of burglary this year over the same time period. That's a 48 percent decline.
Post 2 Commissioner JaNice Van Ness inquired about how the RCSO have produced such a significant reduction.
Levett answered by saying the RCSO "combined a couple of units." These units are responsible for "studying where crimes occurred" and the units will "hit those areas, sometimes at the same time and sometimes at different times."
Covering these areas at various time of the day and night as well having programs in place that assistance the RCSO in predicting where crimes may occur have also help, said Levett.
"We look at a lot of programs and resources that we plan and use in order to determine where the crimes occurring, when it's going to possibly occur and that's where we hit those areas," he said.
Van Ness seemed pleased with the work of the RCSO, but took time out to credit the citizens for helping the burglary rates.
"One of things that I hear you (Levett) talk about all the time too is the importance of the citizens in reporting things that are unusually or different in a neighborhood," she said. "When it's someone they've never seen in the neighborhood or some unusual activity and those calls and reports are actually a big help in preventing some of those crimes and also deterring people from hanging out in the wrong areas. That's great."
Is there justice?
The overall clearance rate, which calculates the number of offenses cleared and not the number of people arrested, for the RCSO is 38 percent.
This includes all crimes offenses, excluding arson, committed from January through September 2014.
The RCSO made a note that the clearance rate is higher than the national average for crime clearance from 2012, the last full year crime stats are available from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which was 22 percent.
All three murder offenses have been cleared as well as 50 percent of the rape offenses and 52 percent of robbery offense.
Even though the burglary rate has drop considerably, these types of crimes have the lowest clearance rate at 21 percent. The number of offense cleared is only 54.
Rockdale County Chairman and CEO Richard Oden lauded Levett and the rest of the sheriff's office for keeping Rockdale County safe.
"It really makes a community feel safe when you know that you got law enforcement that‘s going to respond," he said. "I don't think you guys will reach those numbers (from 2013) because it's close to the end of the year. I think you guess are right on target. That's just a fantastic job."
Oden made a point to mention that most crimes committed aren't by Rockdale residents, which Levett corroborate.
"They're coming from other places and were able to catch them coming in and going out, and that's huge," Oden said.