Sheriff Bryant discusses plan to combat recent violence at BOC Work Session

Published 11:18 pm Monday, February 20, 2023

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AMERICUS – Sumter County Sheriff Eric Bryant explained to the Sumter County Board of Commissioners (BOC) a plan that the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office has to try and be pro-active in combating the recent violence that has plagued the City of Americus at the BOC’s February Work Session on Wednesday, February 15, at the Sumter County Courthouse.

All of the Commissioners were present at Wednesday’s meeting. The work session was moved to Wednesday so that the Commissioners could spend time with their spouses on Valentines Day.

Sheriff Bryant mentioned that there have been three community violence summits that have been held to discuss ways to stop the violence and that input from the citizens has been sought. Bryant went on to say that at one of these summit meetings, information was obtained concerning a FLOP camera system that could be helpful in combatting the violence. “We were actually able to have a presentation by this company,” Bryant said. “One of the things that we find in our community concerns our input that the citizens give back to us. A lot of people see stuff or hear stuff, but nobody wants to talk about it or nobody wants to report anything.”

Each Commissioner had a packet that described in detail how this camera system works.

Bryant went on to explain that when a vehicle enters the area where these cameras are placed, the system logs the information and maintains a picture. “Most of the time, most crimes that are committed throughout our community, somebody drives in that area. The fellow that lives on the corner is not always the one committing the crime. It’s somebody driving into that area,” Bryant said. “So this camera system is something that we wanted to leave with you all this evening to give you a chance to thumb through it and get some understanding of how this camera system works,” Bryant told the BOC.

He went on to say that the system captures the tag numbers and the vehicle descriptions of any vehicles that pass the camera. “So now from an investigative standpoint, even if you don’t have a reliable witness or anybody who wants to come forward, you do have an opportunity to go back and look at whatever vehicle might have passed in that area,” Bryant said. He went on to say that this system is being proposed not only to the BOC, but also before the Americus City Council, the Sumter County Board of Education and both Georgia Southwestern and South Georgia Tech.

Bryant added that other counties, such as Bibb and Houston Counties, have implemented this camera system.

Bryant further talked about how the system will be funded by explaining to the BOC that based on what Georgia Law says, the revenue generated from the speed cameras that have already been placed in school zones around the county can also be used to fund this new camera system. “I come to you not only presenting an idea or recommendation, but also a funding source to fully cover this project if we decide to implement it,” Bryant told the BOC. He also stated that the revenue that has been generated from the cameras at the school zones has already been deposited to the county and those funds come back to the governing body.

Bryant concluded that he plans to allow the BOC to review the material and will come back at a later date to answer any questions the Commissioners may have.

The BOC also had a lengthy discussion about what groups should be allowed to rent the Sumter County Fairgrounds. Commissioner Jim Reid expressed his concern that back on January 31, when a circus was taking place at the fairgrounds, an incident occurred in which one person pointed a gun at another. This incident brought the response of both the Sumter County and Americus police departments.

“We look out the window and Chief (Mark) Scott is the first to show up,” Reid said. “And then every available police officer and deputy showed up. We didn’t know what was going on.” Reid went on to say that he called Sheriff Bryant to find out what was going on and that Bryant told him that when Chief Scott got there, he put out a Code 600. “I don’t know anything about it, but obviously it must mean whatever you’re doing, drop it and show up,” Reid said. He went on to say that the BOC should come up with a list of groups that have rented the fairgrounds in the past and tell them that they will not be allowed to rent it anymore due to incidents such as what happened at the circus on January 31. Reid added that the rental agreement for local citizens and the local people should be slimmed down and that Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department Director Tim Estes and his people should not have to be involved in who rents the fairgrounds. “They shouldn’t even be involved in this loop,” Reid said. “If Tim Estes doesn’t sign the contract, why do you have to go out there to his office, get the paper work and come up here when we’ve got a records clerk? It ought to come up to this office.”

Reid also stated that he thought that the revenue for these events that take place at the fairgrounds is not credited to the rec department, but County Attorney Hayden Hooks responded to Reid that it is. Reid also stated that in his opinion, ¾ of what is in the contract to rent the fairgrounds doesn’t even apply to renting the fairgrounds.

“The person that called me said that all this stuff doesn’t apply. ‘How am I supposed to fill it out,” Reid said.

There was further discussion on the renting of the fairgrounds between the Commissioners, but no motions to approve any kind of resolution were brought forth.

However, there were resolutions that were voted on an approved at the BOC Work Session. One of those was the approval of the ratification to purchase the remaining milled asphalt from Zane Construction at the same rate of $350.00 per load, even if it exceeded 40 loads. Commissioner Jesse Smith made a motion for approval and Commissioner Clay Jones seconded the motion. The BOC voted and the approval passed unanimously.

The BOC also voted unanimously to approve the use of ARPA funds for GSAB 87 and 96 in the amount of $10,775 to the Debt Book. Commissioner Smith made a motion for approval and Commissioner Jones seconded the motion.