The new captain of the Hall County Marshal’s Office wants the office to reach out to the communities it serves.
Capt. Barry Shaw joined Hall County in November. He takes over following the resignation of Andre Niles in August after an internal affairs investigation into Niles’ leadership.
Shaw was previously a zone commander for the Atlanta Police Department’s 2nd Precinct, which covers the northern end of the city. He also worked in code enforcement in Atlanta for two years, and he said the Marshal’s Office position combines law enforcement with code enforcement, one of his favorite types of work.
For Shaw, it’s about getting to know each neighborhood and its unique needs.
“When you start trying to clean up neighborhoods, it’s always important to me to try to get out and meet people and find out the neighborhood leaders,” Shaw said. “Sometimes what you think might be a concern for the neighborhood, when you go in there and you start talking to them, you’ll find out that it may not be what you thought.”
The Marshal’s Office, which is a division of the planning and development department, enforces county ordinances regarding junk, inoperable vehicles, littering, business licenses and short-term rentals. The issues, if gone unaddressed, can lead to environmental or safety concerns. Shaw said the problems can also affect quality of life.
“When you have people that are working hard to maintain their own little patch and you have other people in the neighborhood that are not interested in doing that, it’s nice to be able to go through and get people to clean these places up,” Shaw said. “It just provides a better quality of life for neighborhoods. Sometimes, they just can’t get that done themselves, and they might ask a neighbor or the neighborhood association. … Sometimes it takes us to convince them.”
Shaw has also directed officers to give warnings before writing citations on property maintenance violations unless a health or safety hazard is present. The property owner will have a set number of days to correct the violation, and a citation would be written if they do not correct the problem.
In December 2019, Shaw’s first full month on the job, the Marshal’s Office dealt with 72 cases and issued three citations, two for inoperable vehicles and one for a zoning violation. Those are lower numbers than December 2018, when the office had 107 cases and issued 31 citations, including 27 for inoperable vehicles, three for littering and one for a business license issue.
But those numbers do not specify whether officers conducted a sweep or if these cases were officer-initiated. Shaw plans to adjust how cases are recorded to keep track of that differentiation going forward, doing one sweep every week in a different area of the county and requiring officers to be more proactive by initiating cases.
Another goal is improving community relations by following up with people who have reported an issue to the Marshal’s Office.
“If you’re able to call them back and tell them this is what we saw, at least they know. If it’s something we can address, we can tell them what we will try to do,” Shaw said.
He also plans to focus on side streets that have become more heavily traveled as drivers use navigation apps like Waze to find shortcuts.
“Since Hall County is growing so much and we have so many people coming and going, we’re trying to target some of those secondary corridors, the really heavily traveled secondary roads,” Shaw said. “... We want to really look at those so when people drive in and out of the county, they’re not driving past someone who looks like they have a junkyard in their front yard.”
Another responsibility of the Marshal’s Office is enforcing the county’s rules on short-term rental properties. Those properties need to be registered with the county and obtain a license. Shaw said the office will reach out to unregistered property owners to walk them through the registration process.
The office also provides security for the Hall County Government Center and county parks.
Shaw’s predecessor Niles was accused of poor management of the Marshal’s Office. According to an internal affairs investigation, completed by the Hall County Sheriff’s Office at the request of the county’s human resources department, employees of the office said Niles ran personal errands with employees during the workday, gave inconsistent instructions and then publicly criticized employees, and used derogatory nicknames for county administration.
But Shaw said morale in the office has improved, and the months between Niles’ departure and his arrival seem to have had a positive impact.
“It’s been a very welcoming and positive environment, and not just inside the office, really countywide,” Shaw said. “… I don’t see any tensions between anyone. There may have been before, but whatever issues there were have been worked out.”
There is one vacancy in the Marshal’s Office that the county is looking to fill. The office has four marshals, a sergeant and a captain. Shaw said he plans to request funding for one or two additional positions so officers can be more proactive in the community.