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01-16-09, 01:36 AM #1
Update on my new and improved Sheriff.
The ajc.com reports...
More than 16,000 warrants unserved in Clayton
Deputies working round-the-clock to cut backlog
By MEGAN MATTEUCCI
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Clayton County Sheriff’s Lt. Kelly Clair spends his days playing hide-and-seek.
He knocks on doors, peeks in windows and crouches behind bushes.
It’s all about finding the bad guy, he said.
Clair and about 40 other Clayton deputies are trying to serve a backlog of 16,535 warrants, most left behind by controversial Sheriff Victor Hill. That’s more warrants in backlog than most departments of Clayton’s size, Sheriff Kem Kimbrough said.
“People who commit crimes and have warrants shouldn’t feel you can hide in Clayton County,” said Kimbrough, who took office Jan. 1. “There was a reputation that Clayton was a place for criminals. No longer.”
The deputies now work 24 hours a day and travel anywhere in northern Georgia to find those wanted.
That’s a complete turnaround from how the cases were being handled just last month, deputies said.
Clair has arrested about 13,000 people in his 28 years working for the Clayton sheriff’s department. Only a fraction of those warrants were served during the last four years working for former Sheriff Victor Hill.
“There’s no comparison,” Clair said. “Hill said ‘when you get a chance, serve a warrant.’ He was more focused on the police business.”
The result: thousands of suspects and convicted criminals are wandering the streets of Clayton instead of sitting in jail, Kimbrough said.
The outstanding warrants are for everything from murder and rape to larceny and probation violations. The department has not released a breakdown of how many warrants there are in each violation category but has prioritized the warrants to serve all felonies and domestic-violence offenders first.
Kimbrough has assigned 40 deputies to the streets to solely serve warrants, dividing the county into eight zones to give each city and community its own warrant deputy.
Another 11 deputies, including Clair, make up the Tactical Operations Squad. They chase the most violent offenders.
“You got to have persistence and stay on them once you get on the trail,” said Clair, commander of the tactical squad.
On Thursday, Clair and several other deputies visited three houses looking for Deandre Watson, wanted for violating his probation. Watson, 22, had been convicted of carrying a concealed weapon, obstruction and simple assault, records show. He also has a record that includes more than a dozen arrests, including robbery and aggravated assault, Clair said.
Deputies found Watson on a friends’ couch in Jonesboro. His discovery came only after deputies visited his mom’s Riverdale home and his ex-girlfriend’s Henry County home.
“He doesn’t have a job. That means either his mama is paying his bills or he’s committing crimes,” Clair said. “He’s going to have to steal or sell drugs to make money. It’s absolutely worth us going to three houses to get him off the streets.”
Maj. Shawn Sutherland, commander of the sheriff’s enforcement unit, said the deputies make about 50-70 attempts to serve warrants a day, but only send about 15-17 people to jail daily.
“It’s like an adult game of hide-and-seek,” Sutherland said. “It definitely is time-consuming.”
But even though deputies aren’t always successful, the message has gotten out on the streets.
“The more we are out here talking to these guys, the less likely they are to be in your neighborhood breaking into your car or climbing in your window,” Clair said.
Deputies have also recently bought software that will allow them to map all of the outstanding warrants, allowing residents to look at the Web site and find out who is wanted and if they live in their neighborhood. That will allow residents to help with the backlog, Kimbrough said.
Every sheriff’s department in the country has a backlog of warrants, said Terry Norris, vice president of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Assocition.
Sheriff’s officials in Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb did not provide information about warrants in their county on Thursday. Henry County Sheriff’s Department has 5,985 outstanding warrants, according to Maj. David Foster.
There were only a few thousand warrants — enough to fill four small filing cabinets — when Kimbrough left the sheriff’s department in 2004. Now, the department devotes an entire office to house the outstanding warrants.
“This is ridiculous. This is out of hand,” Kimbrough said. “This represents to me how much work I got to do.”
The warrants totaled more than 20,000 when Kimbrough took office three weeks ago. He and new District Attorney Tracy Graham-Lawson culled about 4,000 that had expired because of the statute of limitations.
Kimbrough admits that if the warrants are all served, the county may have problems with jail overcrowding.
“I would rather have the headache of an overcrowded jail than an unsafe community,” he said. “These guys need to know: we are coming for you. The best thing is to turn yourself in.”
Hill could not be reached for comment.dlefdal said:
Ummmm, what if I don't like thumbs in my butt?
01-16-09, 11:02 AM #2Chief Wheaties PisserVerified LEO
- Join Date
- Just outside Latteland
Hill could not be reached for comment.
- Rep Power
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