In a county growing as fast as ours, it’s reasonable to believe no one would be surprised if there was a corresponding increase in the crime rate.
After all, isn’t that what we expect to happen? More people, more crime? Heck, add just one apartment complex and you’d expect us to turn into a Detroit that manufactures golf cars, right?
Guess again: In Columbia County, there are more people – but there is less crime.
That’s the gist of the 2012 crime statistics compiled by the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office and the cities of Grovetown and Harlem, and reported this past week by staff writer Valerie Rowell. Even though Columbia County added something like 35,000 new residents in the past 10 or so years, the drop in crime numbers last year was the best since Sheriff Clay Whittle took office in 1995.
Two things stand out like neon in those stats: First, burglaries.
Citizens don’t lock their doors out of fear of shoplifting, or even murder. They lock their doors, especially when they’re away, out of fear that someone will enter their home and take their stuff. When it happens, as Whittle rightly notes, it makes the homeowner feel vulnerable.
“That’s always my biggest fear, is that those numbers start going up,” Whittle told me. “That affects not only you, it bothers your neighbors.”
Rather than just hope for the random chance that a deputy will roll through a neighborhood at precisely the same moment a burglar is contemplating a break-in, the sheriff’s office relies on vigilance from citizens who take a strong stake in their community’s safety.
It also leans heavily on statistical analysis that tells them when and where to put deputies through “directed patrols” to best deter burglaries and related crimes.
It obviously works. From 2011 to 2012, burglaries plummeted by 13.2 percent. That’s phenomenal.
The second thing that stands out in those statistics is cooperation. Whittle and other officials attribute much of the improvement in crime numbers to a much-improved working relationship among law enforcement agencies.
That might seem like a no-brainer, but until it was suggested by Chief Deputy Lou Ciamillo, staff from local agencies – not just Harlem and Grovetown, but Richmond County, the FBI and even the CSX Railroad Police – didn’t meet on a regular basis. Now they do, and the result is what Whittle calls “collaborating against the bad guy.”
That’s what we expect them to do. And Columbia County is a safer place to live as a result.
Keep up the great work, officers.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-868-1222, ext. 106. Follow at www.twitter.com/