Recovery agents busy in Clayton County

By Ed Brock

If you're in violation of your bond, Scott Petty and his partner David Williams are two guys you don't want showing up at your door.

They are bounty hunters, skip-tracers, or to be more official they are recovery agents. But in the end, they're the ones bail bonding companies rely on to bring the bad boys, and bad girls, back to face justice.

And lately their company, Georgia Fugitive Recovery, that operates in several counties has been getting a lot of business from Clayton County.

"We probably have a higher number of pickups here than any two offices," said Petty. "They keep us busy."

Petty started the company in 2001 after having worked for some time as a bodyguard for celebrities visiting the Atlanta area. His uncle Jerry Petty, now retired from the Clayton County Police Department, got him into the recovery business.

Williams had worked jobs as a security guard, body guard and bouncer before meeting Petty at a regular training class for bondsmen.

It's not a job one enters lightly, Petty said. Bail enforcement agents must be certified by the Georgia Association of Professional Bail Bondsmen and must qualify for a permit to carry firearms. And they must go to training by a certified instructor every year.

"It's the closest thing you can get to being law enforcement without being law enforcement," Williams said.

This is how the system works.

When a person is arrested and bond is set, a friend or family member goes to a bonding company, like Anytime Bail Bonding on Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro right next door to the Clayton County courthouse and jail complex. The client puts up 12 percent of the bond in cash or a credit card payment, said Chiquita Whatley, office manager and bonding agent for Anytime.

If the person released on bond fails to appear in court the bonding company pays the bond.

"And that's why we've got these guys to go get them," Whatley said.

Petty and his crew work for several bonding companies like Anytime and also Eagle Bonding in McDonough as well as other companies in several different counties. They go where ever they have to go, once as far as San Diego, to recover the bail jumper.

For each recovery, and Petty and Williams recover about 90 to 95 percent of the people they're sent after, they get 10 percent of the bond amount plus expenses for in state recoveries, and 20 percent plus expenses for out of state operations. They have a $300 minimum charge for local recoveries.

However, they expect to save their clients about half a million dollars this year alone, Petty said. Business has been so good lately that they've hired two more men.

Williams and Petty said about 75 percent of their cases from Clayton County involve people under 25.

"And (prosecutors) are charging a lot of them as adults," Whatley added.

Younger suspects with no family to take care of are more likely to leave the state, Petty said.

"They get their toothbrush and run," Petty said.

Many of them stay with friends or family in those other states, otherwise they stay at hotels that rent rooms on a weekly basis.

"That way they don't have to provide much information and they can go from week to week," Petty said.

Previously the law required bondsmen without military or law enforcement experience to bring along a representative from the local law enforcement agency where they are serving a warrant on a possibly dangerous fugitive. However, that law has changed.

"All you have to do is notify (local law enforcement) that you're in their jurisdiction serving the warrant and you're all out," Petty said.

Sometimes their job just requires patience, like the one they had last week in North Carolina. They had information from the fugitive's local parole officer that he was supposed to be home at a certain address by a certain time.

"We had do the whole stakeout, hide out thing," Petty said. "We spent about 14 hours waiting."

And sometimes things get rough. Some three out of 10 people they take into custody are extremely irate, and one person out of those three will resist them physically, by fighting or running.

That may not sound too bad, Petty said, until you consider the fact that they sometimes work over 20 cases a week.

"That gives you two or three guys a week you're going to have to get rowdy with them," Petty said.