COVINGTON - Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown is making it possible for residents to keep up with crime in their neighborhoods from the comfort of their own home with an enhanced Crime Watch via the Internet.
A map detailing what types of crime are being committed and where they occurred each week is available by visiting the NCSO Web site, www.newtonsheriffga.org, and clicking on "Crime Watch."
"Actually it's one of the components I talked about during the course of the campaign," Brown said. "I said we were going to enhance the Web site so the citizens can actually go to the Web site and view the various types of crimes which occur in the community. It's similar to the sex offender registry map, so we just took that idea and rolled it into the idea of making citizens aware of crimes against persons."
The concept of the Crime Watch map is also being used for deputies to fight crime.
"Not only are we doing this for the citizens, so they can see what's going on in the community, we're using it as a tool to keep stats every week to build up a comparison from week to week to see what rate of crimes goes up and what goes down," NCSO spokesman Lt. Mark Mitchell said. "Sheriff Brown wants to tackle these problems head-on to see what we can do to stop them."
Brown said the "comstats" are used for deputies to know what has occurred in their zones before they go on duty. If there were four burglaries the night before, the deputy who works in the day will know what to look out for.
"It's the concept of keeping things right there before the officer so he knows what's going on. We know exactly how many burglaries are going on, on what street. We can pinpoint and identify the activity of the criminals. That's something we started new at the beginning of the year," Brown said.
Brown said with this enhanced knowledge available to his deputies, they will be able to incorporate the problem-solving method to the situation.
"It is the responsibility of investigations to figure out a plan of action of how we are going to solve those burglaries and what we can do to stop those burglaries," he said.
The crimes are divided into the categories of stolen auto, entering auto, theft by taking - which includes things like gas drive offs or shoplifting - burglary and armed robbery.
Burglaries are the most-frequently committed crime, and the map shows the west side of the county with the highest rate of burglaries.
But Mitchell points out that steps have been taken that have made an impact on this trend. In July of this year, the NCSO further divided its work zones, cutting them in half. The sheriff's office previously had divided the county into four zones, but now it uses eight.
"These guys can now respond to an incident pretty quick," Mitchell said. "Doing this has assisted us in catching suspects. We may be right around the corner when there's a burglary in progress. Before, it took us 10 to 15 minutes to get there. Now, sometimes it takes us a minute and a half to get there."
He pointed out that a couple of weeks, ago a neighbor called about two suspicious individuals in the Silos subdivision.
"The officer was there pretty quick and ended up catching them in the act of committing a burglary. We got more units out there and were able to catch them," he said.
Brown said by being able to keep track of exactly in what areas of the county crime is occurring, command staff is able then to decide how many deputies need to be in a specific area and when.
Mitchell said along with the increased knowledge of where crime is occurring, he hopes residents will notify the sheriff's office immediately if they see a situation they think needs a deputy's attention.
"If you see something suspicious or if you see someone suspicious in your neighborhood in a vehicle or on foot, call us," he said.
The sheriff's office Web site has a sign that says it's under construction, but Brown said it is still available to the public. Other changes to the Web site will occur periodically.
Barbara Knowles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.