COVINGTON -- Criminals may traditionally step up their activities during the holidays, but this year Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown is ready to interfere with their plans. He's formed an elite Crime Suppression Unit, dedicated to combating street-level crime, which will be on concentrated patrol throughout the season.
"The Crime Suppression Unit specializes in problem-solving in neighborhoods where normal patrol response is sometimes restrained by the mere volume of calls for service or the length of time needed to resolve the problem," Brown said in a printed press release. "The Crime Suppression Unit conducts targeted and mission-oriented police activities."
Brown has pledged to have the unit on patrol in neighborhoods combating burglaries, thefts and robberies that are prevalent during the holiday period when the temptation is there to steal Christmas presents and other valuables.
The Crime Suppression Unit works under the Criminal Investigations Unit, and Brown describes the men assigned to the unit as "dedicated and highly motivated officers."
He said as well as crimes against persons, the unit is also on the lookout for illegal narcotics and any crime that affects quality of life in a neighborhood.
"This may include open containers of alcohol, noise complaints, littering, trespassing, disorderly conduct and other incidents which contribute to public disorder," Brown said.
The sheriff said the unit would be responsive to neighborhood complaints and urges residents who see suspicious activity or potential problems to call 911 so that his office can address what is going on.
NCSO spokesman Lt. Tyrone Oliver said he would urge residents to play their part in curbing crime by taking common sense precautions and being aware of their surroundings.
"A lot of times when we're doing stats, I'm seeing that people are leaving their cars unlocked, making them easily accessible to thieves," he said, adding that shoppers should always keep their packages and other valuables out of sight even if the doors are locked. If a thief doesn't see anything worth stealing, he may not go to the trouble to break into a vehicle.
Also, it is a good idea to travel with car doors locked, decreasing the likelihood of a carjacking or robbery while stopped at a red light.
At home, Oliver said make sure all windows and doors are locked.
"We need neighbors watching neighbors," he said. "If you see something at a neighbor's house that shouldn't be going on, please call 911 so we can assess the situation. We don't want to see an increase in burglaries in the neighborhoods."
Oliver said he would recommend that residents be aware of what they're throwing away, especially during the Christmas season.
"If you put a box on the curb that has a TV (label) on the side, somebody might see it and say, 'Hey, there might be a TV in the house,'" he said. "Either don't leave it on the curb to be picked up, or at least put boxes in a trash bag so the labels can't be seen."
For more information on assistance available through the NCSO or to set up a Neighborhood Watch program, go to www.newtonsheriffga.org or call the Community Outreach Office at 678-625-1417.