Sheriffs to speak at LWV event

CONYERS - How will local law enforcement be affected by the economy on the skids and local governments slashing budgets? For answers to this question, the League of Women Voters Rockdale/Newton has invited the sheriffs of both counties to its meeting Tuesday.

"The league is concerned as always with budget cuts and if it's going to affect certain parts of government," said Diane Shockey with the local League of Women Voters chapter. "There may be a silver lining, the (federal) stimulus package might plug some of those holes, we don't know. We want to hear what the sheriffs have and what they have to work with. They know the bottom line they have to work with in their departments."

Rockdale County Sheriff Jeff Wigington and Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown will speak from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday during the League of Women Voters meeting at Rockdale Career Academy, 1064 Culpepper Drive in Conyers.

Local governments have been trimming their budgets, and Newton and Rockdale counties are no exception. In Rockdale, County Commission Chairman Richard Oden has asked department heads to cut back their budgets in an effort to make up a $2 million shortfall from homestead option sales tax collections.

In Newton County, the sheriff's office received the brunt of the cuts, slashing $400,000 from its budget.

Shockey said she would like Wigington and Brown to also weigh in on how bad economic times can affect crime. In particular, she said the league would like to learn more about the presence or emergence of gangs in the area.

"We hear a lot anecdotally about gangs, but is it a reality or is it just rumor?" she said. "I'd like to separate fact from fiction."

Shockey said she spent 10 years volunteering for a battered women's shelter in Oregon and in her experience, when the economy goes down, domestic violence goes up. She said Tuesday's meeting will be an opportunity to discuss how the sheriffs' offices are responding to any increases in family violence.

For more information, call Diane Shockey at 678-615-7598.

Aimee Jones can be reached at aimee.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.