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Sheriffs effort shines light on property crimes
Hall County Sheriff Steve Cronic speaks during a Thursday morning news conference announcing the results of “Operation: Full Court Press,” a crime suppression effort that lasted from January to late February. The news conference also featured a selection of drugs, guns and other items confiscated in the arrests.

Hall County sheriff’s officials say they brought a full-court press to curb a spike in property crimes that peaked with 81 burglaries in December.

But with a county furlough program taking 4,000 man-hours from the agency each month, officials “had to be creative” to flood the problem areas with extra patrols and get potential thieves off the streets, Sheriff Steve Cronic said.

The two-month crime suppression effort, dubbed “Operation: Full Court Press,” drew on all divisions of the sheriff’s office to add an extra 30 deputies to the streets, from the jail and court services to administration and command staff.

The operation lasted from January to late February and resulted in 90 arrests, most for drug offenses, prior outstanding warrants and traffic violations. But locking up that criminal element resulted in decreases in entering autos, burglaries and thefts, Cronic said during a Thursday news conference.

“We targeted the areas hardest hit and saturated those areas with officers and visibility,” Cronic said.

Those areas included Gainesville Mill, New Holland and areas of South Hall off Atlanta Highway. In some cases, the sheriff’s mobile command unit rolled in to process multiple arrests.

Cronic said the county had 51 burglaries in February, which was 12 fewer than January and 30 fewer than December. Thefts decreased from 83 in December to 76 in January and 62 in February.

Sheriff’s officials said the operation resulted in the recovery of $46,000 in stolen property and the seizure of $32,000 in illegal drugs.

Some of that contraband was on display during Thursday’s news conference, including several flat-screen monitors, marijuana and a high-end video game console.

While 90 people were arrested, deputies also filled out 228 “field identification cards” for times when deputies talked to suspicious people but didn’t arrest them.

Such policing strategies in troubled neighborhoods are about “identifying folks who are out there in the community who might be looking for a targets of opportunity,” Cronic said. “By pulling those individuals off the streets, or in cases where you don’t have charges but you’re identifying that individual in that area, then you lessen the possibility that they might commit a crime in that given area.”

Cronic said similar operations will take place in the future, as law enforcement braces for more property crime in a nosediving economy.

“We’re certain that we’ll continue to see — until the economy turns around — more attempts to steal; there will be more thieves active,” Cronic said. “But we will commit to do everything within our power to address those issues.”

Until the next major operation, the sheriff’s full-time, 10-officer crime suppression unit will continue its daily duties, patrolling high-crime areas.

Crime Suppression Unit commander Sgt. Shane Presgraves said his deputies get their patrol assignments each day based on the most recent crime data.

“It’s extremely important that we stay on it, especially with this economy,” Presgraves said.

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