The Riverdale Police Department and the Clayton County Sheriff's Office have officially kicked off a joint operation targeting the high number of active criminal warrants within Riverdale’s city limits.
Sheriff Kem Kimbrough said more than one-third of the county's 1,343 warrants are for people who live in Riverdale. He deputized 10 Riverdale officers and assigned each to a team with Fugitive Squad investigators and sheriff's deputies.
"When you look at the numbers, it's clear Riverdale is where we need to be," he said.
About 40 sworn officers hit the city’s streets early Wednesday morning to round up suspects on about 500 warrants. They kicked off the operation with a road check on Lamar Hutcheson Road where officers made several arrests.
"This just formalizes the beginning of something we started three years ago," said Kimbrough. "A bigger and better partnership with the Riverdale Police Department. Riverdale is one of the county's biggest cities and we've done a lot of things as partners. We now combine our resources to ... a common goal –– to run as many criminals out of Clayton County as we can."
Riverdale Police Chief Samuel Patterson said the partnership just makes sense.
"This is the first time we've ever deputized our police officers," he said. "This effort will help us collect money on those outstanding warrants, but will also get felons off the streets."
The Riverdale City Council approved the joint operation. With the officers deputized, they can serve warrants outside the city limits, not only for Riverdale, but for Clayton Superior Court, said Kimbrough.
"This is big," he said. "That's more than just a piece of paper. I hope it will make a difference in Clayton County, and I am sure it will."
After less than four hours on the roads, officers had made about a dozen arrests on outstanding warrants. On one of those warrants, a four-man team went to a Riverdale home to arrest Nicholas Smith, 31. When Smith failed to respond to officers banging on the front door and loudly announcing their presence, a Fugitive Squad investigator simply twisted the door knob. Finding it unlocked, the team drew weapons and yelled inside the house they were entering.
Sheriff's Deputy Rich Sobczak said he found a naked Smith hiding in the first closet door he tried downstairs. After Smith put on pants, he was handcuffed and arrested. On the way out of his house, Smith yelled to a neighbor to let someone know he was going to jail.
"I won't get a bond until tomorrow," said Smith.
Smith faces a domestic violence battery charge. The warrant alleges that he hit his girlfriend’s son several months ago.
The team wasn't as lucky on another warrant. The undercover investigators spotted the man they were looking for, but he ran away on foot when marked patrol cars showed up to assist in the arrest.
"He won't get away for long," said an investigator. "We'll be back."
The operation was to continue until about 2 a.m., Thursday.