The department resolves 24 percent of property crimes committed in the unincorporated area, compared to a national average of 15 percent. And 67 percent of the violent crimes are cleared, compared to 48 percent nationally.
The local crime rate also is low, Shiflett said, with just 1.4 violent crimes and 13.4 property crimes per 1,000 people. The national averages are four violent crimes and 29.4 property crimes per 1,000 people.
“We keep a safe community,” he said.
Still, the department is battling some disturbing trends as the board prepares to set its budget for the coming year.
There’s an 18 percent turnover rate, and it’s mostly certified officers who are recruited away by other agencies once they’ve been fully trained. The starting pay is higher than in a lot of other places, County Manager Blaine Williams said, but promotions and raises are rare.
“Attrition is a concern,” Commissioner Garry Fricks said. “Your people are too valuable to lose. All our employees are valuable, but yours are expensive to train too.”
Officer safety is another issue. Seven of the 79 sworn officer positions are vacant; two have been frozen since the 2008 budget cuts; and eight are filled by new-hires who need six months of experience before they can patrol alone.
“It’s basically a whole shift lost,” Shiflett noted.
Then there are the ever-increasing training mandates from the state, and the accompanying fees for the classes and paper certificates. A new one: each officer must be recertified every four years at a cost of $25, plus psychological and medical tests.
Each officer also must complete 20 hours a year of paid training in courses ranging from gang awareness, in-custody deaths and emergency vehicle safety to elder abuse, financial identity theft and transporting prisoners.
Commission Chairman Irwin Bagwell said the board would talk with state lawmakers about the requirements and the cost when they meet before the January 14 start of the Georgia General Assembly session.
In other actions Tuesday, the County Commission declared surplus 125 abandoned properties in preparation for a Dec. 10 auction.
“We don’t want to be in the property business,” Williams said. “We want it to be on the tax rolls and in the citizens’ hands.”
Dempsey Auction Co. will handle the sale, which will take place at The Forum.