Sheriff goes public with meet-and-greet

By Aisha I. Jefferson

Jesan Brown, 2, stood very still as Erika Faulkner carefully painted a basketball on his right cheek. Jesan's brother Arturo, 11, and his sister Ariyan, 10, patiently waited for their little brother and for the chance to get their faces painted.

"I've had five or six adults come by," said Faulkner, a member of the Clayton County Sheriff's Office Explorers, who had been painting faces for the past four hours as part of the Sheriff's Office's meet-and-greet event.

The face-painting booth was an example of the community atmosphere that resonated during Saturday's meet-and-greet event. Several Clayton County residents and nonresidents off all ages attended the event, which began at 11 a.m. and ended around 5 p.m. The meet-and-greet took place outdoors, in front of the Harold R. Banke Justice Center on Tara Boulevard in Jonesboro.

"It was just a good turnout," Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill said. "This is the first one in the history of the sheriff's office."

Hill said the meet-and-greet allowed residents to get a better understanding of how the sheriff's office operates and meet staff members, including the Cobra Unit and the SWAT team.

Hill said he hopes to make the meet-and-greet an annual event.

Clayton County Sheriff's Office Lt. Shawn Southerland said he thought the meet-and-greet was "a good event."

"I think it lets people get more in touch with some of the agencies in the county," said Southerland, as he watched his daughter, Sidney, 8, scale a rock-climbing wall provided by the U.S. Army.

Attendees also were introduced to the Sheriff's Choir, which is composed of department employees, and who showcased their talent at the meet-and-greet.

"Excellent. They were just excellent," Fulton County resident Carolyn Mason said about the choir.

Saturday's event also provided another opportunity for the community to interact with one another, a reason why Jonesboro resident Sharon Owens said she came out.

"I think this is good, because it brings the community together as a whole," said Owens, who came with her niece and a neighbor. "In spite of the crime that's going on, it shows that the community can come together."

Carroll County residents Greg and Vera Scott said their friend and sheriff's office employee Michelle Allen invited them to set up a booth where they sold ice-cream and other refreshments.

"I think the community is going to come together," Greg Scott said. "I think a lot of good things are going to happen."

The Clayton County EMS, Chick-fil-A, the U.S. Army and several local businesses had information booths set-up.

Saturday also kicked-off the start of the "scared straight" program, which Hill said is designed to discourage teens from choosing a life of crime and possibly ending up in jail.

"He will actually see what it's like to be in jail," said Hill, explaining that Clayton County residents can sign waivers allowing their child to spend several hours behind bars.

Hill said the program allows teens to see "that jail is not a fun place to be and actually prevent them from walking through the front door of my jail."