Bark Scott: Recapping first half of 2017

Published 4:45 pm Wednesday, July 12, 2017

It’s hard to believe, but the first half of 2017 has come and gone. Thus far, it’s been a pretty good year. I would like to thank the board of directors of the Smarr and Smith Foundation and all of the volunteers who worked to make the “Paint the Town Blue Gala” last month a great success. I felt like the foundation went out of its way to make sure that the event was well planned and that every aspect of the fundraiser was honoring to Nick and Jody. Both families expressed to me that they really enjoyed the event and thought that it was top notch. The Smarr and Smith Foundation is a charitable organization which is completely independent of any government agency. Their stated goal is to,
“ensure our officers enjoy the best in tactical gear, training, and education as they serve and protect our home.” Special thanks to all the individuals and businesses who bought tickets to the gala or made donations to the foundation. Although we are not voting members of the foundation board, Sheriff Pete Smith, GSW Chief Mike Tracy and I are all advisors to the foundation and will work together to make sure that foundation activities are open and transparent to the public we serve.
As we launch into the second half of 2017, I would like to take a quick look back at the police department’s activities during the first six months of the year. We have been actively recruiting and hiring new officers this year. We currently have three new officers who have graduated from the police academy and are in our Field Training Program. An additional five newly hired cadets are currently attending the police academy. Assuming they all graduate in September, this will bring our number of vacancies down to nine. Please help us spread the word that we are actively hiring police officers. Applications are available on the city’s web site and at the Human Resources Office in City Hall.
Our crime statistics for the first half of the year look good. The department worked a total of 976 reported crimes the first half of 2017, which is down 16 percent from the 1,162 crimes reported during the same period in 2016. Part I Offenses, which include serious crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, and burglary are down 20 percent from 595 offenses in the first half of 2016, to 474 offenses in the first half of 2017. Part II Offenses, which include less serious crimes such as simple assault, forgery, and criminal trespass are down 11 percent from 567 offenses reported in the first half of 2016, to 502 offenses reported in the first half of 2017.
I wish I could point to a single activity by the police department that drove this reduction in crime, but the reality is that crime reduction is a joint effort of the entire community. The Americus Police Department has worked closely with the Sumter County Sheriff Office, the District Attorney’s Office, the Georgia State Patrol, the GBI, the Department of Community Supervision, and all of our other criminal justice partners to proactively enforce the law over the past few months. More importantly, our community partners and Neighborhood Watch groups have been extremely active in monitoring the activity in their own neighborhoods and reporting suspicious activity to the police. Citizen involvement is absolutely the key to impacting crime in our city. Please remember that if you see something that looks suspicious, say something. More importantly, get involved in one or more of the groups in this area which are working on economic development, improving our schools, providing more educational opportunities for our children, and mentoring our young people. The more jobs and opportunities we can create for our citizens, the lower the crime rate will go and the higher the quality of life in our city will rise.

Mark Scott is chief of the Americus Police Department.