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NCSO adds motorcycle, drug canine

COVINGTON - The Newton County Sheriff's Office is looking to slow speeders, and they have a new weapon in their arsenal. Sheriff Ezell Brown announced late last week that the four-man NCSO Traffic Unit now has a second motorcycle and motorists should expect to see the two deputies on motorcycles enforcing speed limits.

"We're targeting high traffic areas that we've had problems with as far as accidents and fatalities," said the supervisor of the Traffic Unit who asked that his name not be used due to several high-profile drug cases now pending as a result of the unit's efforts. "We've had the Traffic Unit for four years and since we've had the Traffic Unit, the speeds in the county have drastically dropped. Of course, you still have your speeders, but it's nothing like when we started."

The supervisor said that speeding in school zones has been a particular problem that has been brought more in control as a result of their efforts. They've found that the motorcycle deputies have been particularly successful patrolling those areas.

Brown also said as a result of complaints received from the residents of Newborn and Mansfield, traffic enforcement has been stepped up in those areas. There are now "speed trailers" in those areas to remind residents to slow down, and a deputy is assigned to watch for those violating the speed laws.

Residents who have complaints about speeders should visit the NCSO Web site at www.newtonsheriffga.org and click on "anonymous tip line." Those who want a response from NCSO personnel should leave contact information. Or, the Traffic Unit can be reached by calling 678-625-1404.

"Our focus is on a wide scale, not just one targeted area," the sheriff said.

Also, back working with the Traffic Unit is the 8-year-old Belgian malinois Rin and his handler. And, while deputies have been writing traffic citations, Rin has been sniffing out a quantity of illegal narcotics.

"The canine has helped tremendously," Brown said.

Over the last weekend in April, several drug cases were made when vehicles were stopped on Interstate 20. During that weekend the NCSO Traffic Unit was working with members of a Butts County task force, which Brown said was to "sharpen their skills."

According to the Traffic Unit supervisor, the following drugs and goods have been confiscated in the past three weeks with the assistance of Rin:

· 22 pounds of marijuana

· 1/2 kilo of cocaine

· 100 Ecstasy pills

· three vehicles

· approximately $3,700 in U.S. currency

Even though many recent stops have resulted in drug arrests, Brown and his deputies are quick to say that they're not just looking for drugs.

"We're looking for any type of criminal element in the county and the unit's focus is not just going to be the interstate. We have a long stretch of 20 that continues to be under construction, but there are other roads and highways in the county where we have problem with speeders," Brown said. "We're just out there enforcing the traffic laws and trying to get people to slow down for the safety of our citizens."

Another member of the unit pointed out that traffic stops often result in discovering stolen vehicles, wanted people, weapons, counterfeit goods and currency, but the true goal of the unit is to reduce speed and thus reduce wrecks.

Residents have also stepped forward to assist with the increased efforts by the Traffic Unit by donating funds and services on their behalf. Chris Bell, the owner of Bell's Grocery, recently donated $1,500 to the Traffic Unit for a kennel for Rin, and John Draper of Custom Tint and Sound and Casteel's Custom Woodwork have donated funds and supplies for window tinting for the vehicles in the traffic unit.

"We really want to thank them for that," the Traffic Unit supervisor said.

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com.