Several area organizations and Columbia County government departments know the benefits of seeking the public's opinion.
At the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, two surveys -- an online community crime survey and a citizen contact survey -- allow people to give feedback on crime and public safety within the county.
"As far as we're concerned, any law enforcement agency engaged in community policing would want to know how they're doing from the citizens' perspective," said Columbia County Sheriff's Capt. Steve Morris.
The citizen contact survey, which started about 15 years ago, is conducted by road patrol officers each month.
The online survey can be accessed on the sheriff's office Web site, www.columbiacountyso.org. Since its inception on Sept. 1, more than 450 people have responded, Morris said.
Each survey takes about 10 minutes to complete, he said.
"Recent results suggest that people in Columbia County think speeding, unsupervised juveniles and littering are the most serious problems in the county," Morris said. "The majority of those who responded feel safe or very safe in their neighborhoods."
Others in the community seem to be aware of the advantages such surveys can have.
"I can't tell you how many thousands of pieces of material that we have gotten into the community in regard to that," said United Way of the CSRA President Laverne Gold.
After nearly a year of collecting data from more than 500 surveys regarding needs, such as education, homelessness, crime, illiteracy, drugs, economic development and unemployment, United Way offered three focus groups this month to pinpoint specific health and human service issues.
"If you get to the root causes then you can try to better plan for a program or a service that can help address or meet those needs," Gold said.
Two focus group sessions were held last week. The final meeting will begin at 10 a.m. Monday at the CSRA Regional Commission at 3023 Riverwatch Parkway. For details, call (706) 724-5544.
The county's library system also currently is prompting residents to give feedback on programs and events offered at each branch. The survey began this month and can be completed at the county's Web site, columbiacountyga.gov.
Community Events Manager Stacie Adkins said it's easier to plan events in the county when the public indicates what types of programs they'd like to see.
About 180 residents responded to a Community Events survey that was sent out in the August water bill, she said.
"We did adjust the 2011 calendar for more concerts, because that seemed to be what people wanted," said Adkins, who encourages people to continue filling out the survey on the county's Web site.
The county's Development Services Division also uses information provided by residents. In 2009, the department inquired about the retail needs of those in the county. Of the 1,000 residents who took the survey, the majority said they shopped outside the county.
Director Richard Harmon said he'd like to update the results through a new survey before the end of the year.
"I'm always looking for what do, (what) the citizens want, what do the businesses, want rather than the government telling citizens and businesses what they're going to get," he said.
Harmon's division also helped generate a recent sign survey, which was spearheaded by a county Convention and Visitors Bureau committee.
Despite a low number of responses, the results were mostly positive for welcome signs displayed along Flowing Wells and Stevens Creek road.
Though involved in the sign survey, the CVB often takes a different approach to collecting public data.
"We actually have as our target audience people that don't live here, so putting a survey on the county Web site doesn't help us much," said CVB Executive Director Beda Johnson.
Instead, Johnson said they track county visitors and send them questions asking why and when they came and how much money they spent while visiting.
In 2011, CVB staff also plans to speak with travelers lodging in county hotels to acquire information about visitors, Johnson said.
"It's people that are not from here that the CVB needs to hear from," she said.
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