Clayton County police officers Phong Nguyen and Ron Coloma cook and prepare hot dogs and burgers for residents to grab and go explore the annual open house Thursday. (Staff Photos: Kathy Jefcoats)
JONESBORO — Clayton County police Detective Tim Owens was enthralled Thursday night during the department’s annual Open House.
It wasn’t the free burgers and hot dogs, or popcorn and caramel apples. It wasn’t even the department’s newest piece of equipment — a Lenco BEARCAT armored response counter attack truck that set Owens’ heart racing.
It was a fire engine red 2013 Dodge Viper GTS on display in the parking lot.
“I think you need to get some pictures of me taking this on a test drive,” Owens joked to a news reporter.
The car was on display courtesy of Landmark Dodge, said Eddie Rosa, a dealership employee who drove it to the Open House and answered questions about it. His wife, Danielle Rosa, is a Clayton County police detective.
“This is a true supercar,” he said. “It can go 190 mph.”
The $140,000 sleek sports car was a draw for both men and women but the BEARCAT also proved a worthy attraction. Malachi Cole, 12, and his mom, Tami Cole, of Jonesboro, stood wide-eyed at the vehicle as Lt. Marc Richards described its amenities.
“It’s awesome,” Tami Cole said. “We tried to pick up the equipment that the officers have to wear before getting inside. It’s heavy.”
Malachi Cole said he’d already had some food and was enjoying the festivities.
“It’s pretty sweet,” his mom said.
Chief Greg Porter said that is the whole goal of the event — to get members of the community to interact with police officers in a social setting and to encourage them to inspect the resources their tax dollars provide the department.
“We want to promote the department in a pro-active manner,” he said. “We want to let the residents know how committed we are to them and our partnerships with the faith-based community, schools, homeowners associations and Explorers. It’s a good thing to do.”
Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner attended the open house at the department where he spent most of his adult life as a police officer and then chief before running for office.
“This is a great event sponsored by the police department,” he said. “This gives the citizens the opportunity to see the resources they paid for. It’s always important for citizens to interact with the police department.”
Turner said promoting the relationship between residents and officers is the primary goal of the Community Oriented Policing program implemented when he was chief.
Parents toured the grounds with their children who played on a bouncy house, marveled at the motorcycle unit, BEARCAT and Viper. Sgt. Tracy Jakes, Explorers post commander, manned a table promoting the program and selling caramel apples to raise money.
Jakes said the post has about 10 members but she is hoping to increase that to 30. There is a recruitment meeting Nov. 7. For more information, call the police department at 770-477-3747.
Porter also used the event to promote a new way for the department to communicate with residents. Tips can be texted by typing “ClaytonPD” and the information to 274637. Residents can also sign up for email alerts and get a free app for smartphones.
“We’re using social media-type functions to promote our relationship through the Clayton County community,” Porter said. “This is a tool designed to do multifaceted law enforcement tasks. No. 1, we can provide public service announcements and No. 2, we can alert people with information on crimes and tips.”
Lt. Marc Richards said residents can sign up to get alerts specific to their neighborhoods or groups.
“This is another layer to our crime-fighting efforts,” said Porter.
Anyone interested in signing up for the alerts can access www.claytonpolice.com for more information.