Mark Scott: Crime rate down in Americus
As we launch into a brand new year, I would like to take some time to look back on 2017, and examine our progress. One of our main goals last year was to fill vacant patrol officer positions. At the beginning of the year we had 12 openings. Through aggressive recruiting efforts, I am happy to report that we currently have only four openings for police officers. We will continue to actively recruit the best and brightest candidates that we can find and hope to be fully staffed by the end of March 2018.
We set a number of additional goals for the department in 2017. A full description of our goals and detailed accounts of our progress can be found on our web page at www.americusga.gov/police-department. To summarize some of the high points, we sponsored a series of Criminal Justice Summits which brought representatives from the court system together with local, state and federal law enforcement representatives to discuss issues facing our community. Hopefully these summits will become a regular occurrence for sharing information. The police department worked very hard to achieve certification from the Georgia Law Enforcement Certification Program. We successfully met all the required standards for the program and were approved for certification in December. We also met many of the goals we had set for 2017, in the areas of community involvement, technology enhancement, general training, and crisis intervention training.
Of course, one of our major ongoing goals is to implement proactive strategies to reduce crime in the city of Americus. I am very pleased to report that we had a significant decrease in reported crime in 2017. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting System divides criminal offenses into two major reporting categories. Part I Crimes are offenses such as murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and burglary. Part II Crimes are offenses such as simple assault, forgery, drug activity and other offenses. The Americus Police Department investigated 1,024 Part I crimes in 2017, which is a 21 percent decrease over the number of Part I crimes reported in 2016. We investigated 1,015 Part II crimes in 2017, which is a 12 percent decrease over the number reported in 2016. The total for both Part I and II crimes is 2,039, which is a 17 percent decrease over the same categories in 2016. This continues a downward trend in criminal activity and is the lowest number of reported crimes in the City of Americus since 1998 (the last year available on the FBI website for individual cities).
While we accomplished a lot in 2017, I am even more optimistic for 2018. Some of our major goals for this year are to implement a K-9 program (funding already available), implement a special investigations unit to deal with drug activity and other street level crimes, and augment our state certification by pursing national accreditation. We will also be working hard to build on the partnerships we have already established in the community and to forge new cooperative efforts with community partners.
Mark Scott is chief, Americus Police Department.