Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill (Staff Photo: Kathy Jefcoats)
JONESBORO — Loitering, loud music, errant youth and petty thefts are issues most neighborhoods deal with at one time or another and Hunter Ridge is no different.
With 638 occupied lots, Hunter Ridge is Clayton County’s largest mobile home subdivision. Its residents heard promises from Sheriff Victor Hill to help fight those problems and more during a community meeting Wednesday night.
About 50 people gathered at the clubhouse to hear about Hill’s plan to help them fight crime, including a citizens patrol program.
“We will arm you all with walkie talkies so you can call things in to each other,” said Hill. “It’s great because someone else can be calling 911 as you are calling in the information to your neighbors. You can report suspicious people or burglaries while we’re responding.”
Hill said the theory behind the program is having extra eyes and ears to help law enforcement officers catch criminals but the communication system can help in other ways, too.
“The scariest time for some women is that walk from the driveway to her front door,” he said. “With the radio, she can call a neighbor and ask someone to watch her walk to her house. If she needs help, she can get it right away.”
Another way residents can help protect themselves is by registering for Nixle, a text alert system.
“Studies show that citizens want to help law enforcement,” said Hill. “They don’t always know how to help but by signing up for the text alerts, you can get pictures of a missing child or a murderer running loose. You’ll know to bring the kids in the house or take other action.”
Nixle also sends weather and traffic advisories.
Specialized units target specific crimes, issues
Hill told residents he is committed to shutting down every drug house in Clayton County.
“How do you do that?” he said. “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. We’re going to close down these drug houses by doing it one at a time. I have a unit that deals only with drug houses.”
Once a drug house is identified, Hill said his strategy is to park deputies out front in marked patrol cars.
“It’s hard to sell drugs when you’ve got two or three sheriff’s cars sitting right outside,” he said. “Does it take time? Yes, it does. But we will do what we need to do. And we’ll stay until the job is done.”
Hill opened the discussion to residents who asked questions and expressed concerns about trespassers, curfews and loud music.
“The only way to turn down the volume is to keep writing tickets,” said Hill. “The more tickets you give, the more the volume goes down.”
Hill said deputies sometimes work on Operation Volume Control where they issue tickets for loud music emanating from parked cars.
He said he created a Truancy Task Force to address school attendance and curfew problems, and to test the veracity of convenience store clerks during undercover underage alcohol buys.
“It’s real important for kids to be in school during the day and at home at night,” said Hill. “We check on alcohol sales in stores. They all go hand in hand. So those are the three things the unit concentrates on.”
One resident said she wanted to see more activities available for children and teenagers, while a second said he’d like to see parents do a better job of policing their own kids. Hill said his department operates two youth programs — one for “good” kids, one for “bad.”
Troubled kids can participate in Hill’s modified Scared Straight program where, when they are suspended from school, they spend their time away from classes at the sheriff’s office. Hill said they wear orange jumpsuits and follow inmate rules.
Students already on the straight-and-narrow path can join the Explorer Scouts program and discover whether a career in law enforcement is in their future.
Hill also reminded the group that there are four recreation centers in Clayton County, including an aquatic center next door to the courthouse and jail in Jonesboro.
“But I understand that transportation is an issue,” he said to applause from understanding parents. “I’m hoping the leaders in the county will step up and help solve that problem.”
Hill encouraged residents to take note of problem areas inside Hunter Ridge and email him with specific details. A deputy handed out cards with Hill’s contact information.
Hunter Ridge employee Cynthia Martin said she was pleased with the turnout.
“This meeting has been the best thing,” she said. “The residents really needed to hear this. It’s just a positive thing.”
Martin said residents get together once a month for a variety of organized events.
“We try to do things that bring people together and get to know each other,” she said. “We’re also doing a newsletter. This is a nice place to live and we want to keep it that way.”
Martin acknowledged that the community experiences “petty” issues like any neighborhood.
“We’re so big, we’re like a state,” she said. “We do have petty things going on but we don’t want them to turn into big things. We want everyone to feel comfortable. All in all, we’ve got a really good community here.”