Tallies are in and, despite some specific concerns, it seems the majority of citizens generally feel safe in their communities, according to results released from a recent survey conducted by the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office.
The online survey opened in mid-September and closed at the end of October. A recorded 189 citizens participated in the 26-question survey that included rating scale questions and open-ended questions.
Results showed that a combined 60.8 percent of citizens strongly agreed or agreed that they generally felt safe in their neighborhoods. That number compared to the 31.2 percent who said they strongly disagreed or disagreed with that safety statement.
Nothing in the responses particularly came as a surprise to the RCSO command staff, according to Chief Deputy Scott Freeman.
"We believe we have done a fairly good job of staying on top of community concerns and issues through social media, town hall meetings, and constant attendance to community events," Freeman told the News. "The concerns involving countywide crime match what we are seeing with our crime analysis and response to crime in the county."
Freeman admitted that the survey did not bring in a lot of responses - less than a half percent of the county's residents - but explained that the survey's intent was just to "take a snapshot of the community as a whole."
Of a list of 32 given crimes, 56.5 percent of responders rated burglaries and home break-ins as a very serious concern. Armed robberies came in second as the crime with the most public concern netting 46.5 percent of responders. Hard on the heels of that was drunk driving and organized gangs at 45.4 percent and 45.1 percent, respectively.
"Each of the top concerns will be a major focus for the RCSO in the months to come," Freeman said.
Other questions on the survey related to how responders wanted RCSO to interact with the public, responders' perception of RCSO, and projects the public would like to see in the future. An overwhelming 90.1 percent of survey participants wanted to see RCSO go to an interactive crime map that would send out automatic crime alerts and allow the public to search for crime in specified areas.
Better enforcement of traffic laws and increased pay for deputies were a couple responses to the open-ended questions that many survey takers repeated in one way or another. Many citizens also asked for a stronger presence in the community, specifically with patrolling in neighborhoods and shopping areas.
The open-ended responses also complimented Sheriff Eric Levett and his deputies.
RCSO will integrate much of the survey data into its strategic plan, Freeman said, and the data will "help guide the RCSO service delivery in the years to come."
"The survey was created as part of Sheriff Levett's commitment to the citizens of Rockdale County to address community concerns and to be responsive to the needs of citizens," Freeman said. "We feel that that this information will allow us to gauge the temperature of the community to ensure we are on the right track to making Rockdale County safer."