0306DISTRICTSAUDHall County Sheriff Steve Cronic talks about the advantages of expanding his agency’s patrol map from 12 to 15 districts.
The boundary lines have been redrawn for the deputies who patrol Hall County’s 1,300 miles of roads.
For the first time in five years, and only the second time since 1986, Hall County sheriff’s officials have created a new map of districts that dictate where road deputies patrol. The expansion from 12 districts to 15 — and the addition of 16 new deputies to patrol them — should cut down on response times and allow deputies assigned to those districts to do more than drive from one call to the next, Sheriff Steve Cronic said.
Officials refer to time not spent responding to calls as "undirected patrol time," and while special operations units such as traffic enforcement and burglary suppression have the luxury of patrolling accident and crime hot spots without a destination, most sheriff’s cars on the road last year were busy answering some of the 209,000 calls for service in 2007.
"For the first time in probably a couple of decades, we’re beginning to see some undirected patrol times" for regular road deputies, Cronic said.
That means more time to get to know the residents and business owners in the districts where deputies are assigned, in what Cronic calls the "10-minute rule." The sheriff asks his deputies to spend 10 minutes out of the car for every hour behind the wheel, talking with citizens and getting a handle on their needs. Having more districts means better visibility among the citizens for the deputies assigned to each district, Cronic said."People are more apt to talk to you when they recognize you and know you," Cronic said. "It helps us gather information, and we can be more proactive as a result."
Deputies assigned to districts cannot go out of their districts without a supervisor’s permission. If a major incident occurs, typically deputies from special operations units or "overlap" officers who roam throughout the north or south side of the county will respond as backup.
"We may have a homicide or a big manhunt going on, but those (standard) 911 calls are still coming in," Hall County Sheriff’s Maj. Jeff Strickland said.
Cronic said the patrol district expansion, which went into effect last week, was made possible when Hall County commissioners approved the addition of 16 new deputies on the county payroll, effective Jan. 1.
The patrol map last changed in 2003, after the sheriff’s office added eight deputies with a Homeland Security grant. The number of districts expanded then from nine to 12. Sheriff’s officials had used a nine-district map since 1986.
Cronic said he has been moving toward a 15-district map since he took office in 2001.
"The 12-district map was kind of an intermediate step that served as a stop-gap," Cronic said. "But this has finally brought to fruition what we determined that we needed seven years ago."
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office, like most law enforcement agencies, is reluctant to release exact manpower numbers for any given time of the day, citing operational security. But more deputies means the ability to carve out more districts.
Cronic requires his deputies to respond to an emergency call within five minutes, and a nonemergency call within 15 minutes.
"We pretty much hit our marks on that," Strickland said.
Cronic hopes to reduce response times more with the new patrol map.
"Because if someone’s trying to break into your house, there’s a big difference in six minutes or five minutes," Cronic said.