Chief Scott Gives Updates on City of Americus Police Department

Published 12:30 pm Monday, April 22, 2024

Press Release by Chief Scott

What is the City’s plan to address gun crime? This is a question that is frequently asked at community meetings and forums. For the Police Department, our plan is to continue to address
all crime from every possible direction. In daily operations we utilize data to monitor where specific crimes are occurring and then allocate patrol resources in those areas to both deter further activity and hopefully catch those responsible. Most gun crime incidents in the city involve unknown persons discharging firearms into the air or into the ground and leaving the scene. Most of the shots fired calls we respond to do not involve actual property damage.

When the shooter does actually target something, the shots are usually directed at a house or vehicle parked in front of a house. We respond to these calls and canvass the area speaking with residents to see if anyone saw anything. We also check with any homes or businesses in the area that have security cameras or doorbell cameras to see if they captured the suspects. If we can get a vehicle description, we check the license plate readers placed around town to see if we can identify the vehicle.

From a forensic perspective, we collect shell casings and spent rounds on every scene where we can locate them and send them to the crime lab to be analyzed and scanned into the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN), which is operated by ATF. Whenever we recover firearms, we send these to the crime lab to be test fired and scanned into the system as well. We have been able to link recovered firearms with shooting scenes through the NIBINS system.

We have also partnered with the Americus Housing Authority to obtain a grant through the Governor’s Public Safety Community Violence Reduction Program (PSCVR) for over $800,000. This grant is being used to install video security cameras in neighborhoods all over the city that have a high crime rate. The project also includes stationary license plate reader (LPR) systems placed strategically to monitor vehicular traffic in and out of these areas. These efforts are effective in helping us identify persons who commit crimes and arrest them, but they do little to prevent future criminal activity.

There are hundreds of current psychological and sociological studies aimed at trying to identify the Root Causes of crime. The consensus is that there is no one “Root Cause” of criminal activity. Instead, there are a myriad of social issues that contribute to criminal behavior. The most prevalent issues are poverty, mental health issues, family dynamics, illiteracy, youth gangs, and drug addiction. None of these issues are easily addressed, but all contribute to violent crime. We will continue to work with our community partners to tackle these social problems.

A couple of recent success stories can be found in our partnership with the school systems. In 2023 we participated in several community forums along with the sheriff’s office, community leaders and school officials. The forums began a dialogue which led to a partnership with the One Sumter Economic Development Foundation to produce a video documentary, The Reformation Project.

The documentary addresses issues of inequity in the criminal justice system and has been used to spark discussion in community forums. Beginning in January of this year, a group of student leaders from Americus High School, Southland Academy, and Furlow Charter School began meeting together to plan a youth summit for all three schools to discuss the issues of violence prevention. The planning meetings were sponsored and guided by One Sumter, the Sumter County Recreation Department, the Americus Police Department, the Sumter County Sheriff Office, and West Mortuary. Although the planning sessions were guided by adult volunteers, the students did all the work in developing the content and format of the summit discussion. The summit took place at South Georgia Technical College in two sessions on March 27th with 9th through 12th grade students from all three schools participating.

The students held nothing back and there was open and frank dialogue between the youth and the members of the discussion panel. This was the first of what we hope will be many more efforts to engage the next generation in solving the problems in our community. The second success story also involved our local youth. During a Community Solutions Collaborative meeting in March of 2023, we discussed the possibility of a Teen Maze program in the Sumter County Schools, modeled after a successful program in Cordele. The Teen Maze is an event where students witness a mock traffic accident involving a fatality caused by a drunk driver. They then enter a maze where they are asked to navigate a series of stations that illustrate the potential result of decisions they face. The students draw random decisions from a bucket as they navigate the maze to illustrate how what seems like a minor choice can lead to life changing consequences. The maze brought together volunteers from across the community including healthcare professionals, mental health counselors, school personnel, substance abuse counselors, financial advisors, public safety officials and more. The ultimate goal for each student was to make it through the maze and graduate high school. However, many participants found that their choices led them to addiction, teen pregnancy, jail, and for some the funeral home. It was a tremendous opportunity for the volunteers to meet and interact with over 1500 middle and high school students.

In closing, the plan to address crime in our community involves all of us. No one organization can address the problem alone. It takes all of us working together to initiate meaningful change and make Americus and Sumter County the safe and thriving community we want it to be.