Sandy Springs police spokesman excited by move to crime analysis team

Sgt. Sal Ortega started his new position as a supervisor with the Street Crimes Unit. Credit: Adrianne Murchison

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Sgt. Sal Ortega started his new position as a supervisor with the Street Crimes Unit. Credit: Adrianne Murchison

The Sandy Springs police sergeant who served as police public information officer since 2020 has a new role as supervisor of the Street Crimes Unit.

Sgt. Sal Ortega started his new position Thursday and Sgt. Matthew McGinnis is the new public information officer.

The police department rotates positions of sergeants and above into new roles about every two years, Ortega said.

The Street Crimes department analyzes crime trends in investigations, he said.

“It’s an investigative unit that focuses on burglaries, robberies, carjackings, but we use intel, data, hot spots to predict where they’re going to hit next,” Ortega said. “I’m excited.”

Ortega, who lives in Cumming, said he didn’t realize the responsibility of being PIO and being on call around the clock, until he learned he would be leaving the job.

“Even when I’m at home ... if I’m in church or if I’m somewhere, I’m constantly checking my phone every five minutes,” Ortega said Tuesday. “You can imagine it’s not popular with my wife.”

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Sgt. Sal Ortega started his new position in the Street Crimes Unit. Credit: Sandy Springs Police

Credit: Courtesy Sandy Springs Police

Sgt. Sal Ortega started his new position in the Street Crimes Unit. Credit: Sandy Springs Police

Credit: Courtesy Sandy Springs Police

caption arrowCaption
Sgt. Sal Ortega started his new position in the Street Crimes Unit. Credit: Sandy Springs Police

Credit: Courtesy Sandy Springs Police

Credit: Courtesy Sandy Springs Police

Ortega, 36, was in the Detectives unit when he got the call that he would become PIO in January 2020, only months before the pandemic and the death of George Floyd changed the country.

That summer, residents called to inquire about the department’s message in response to Floyd being killed by Minnesota police.

“I prepared a document saying we condemn what happened (in Minnesota) … We don’t allow chokeholds, we don’t allow knees, this is what we do, this is what we train on,” Ortega said.

As PIO, Ortega said he grew to a feeling of comfort with the position.

“Having the confidence of speaking in public was something I had to overcome quickly,” Ortega said. “I slowly started improving. It was good that I had detective experience, especially when we had homicides.”

In addition to speaking directly to media, Ortega said social media became a useful tool.

“If you let people know what’s going on, they feel like they’re part of the process,” the sergeant said.

Ortega said he was gratified that he used social media successfully last June when Gary Anthony Creek, who was wanted for murders in Baltimore, was barricaded in a Sandy Springs apartment with U.S. Marshals and the Sandy Springs SWAT team outside.

“People were out there who couldn’t get home. It makes a difference instead of just telling them they can’t have access to where they live,” he said of using social media.

Three hostages were rescued and Creek died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.

The San Diego, California native said he wanted to be in law enforcement as early as age six, and he plans to bring what he’s learned from being PIO into the Street Crimes Unit.

“I’m going to get the community involved once we find those crime patterns,” Ortega said. “If you have an educated society, they can help you prevent crime.”

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