Sandy Springs saw dip in crime in 2008

Sandy Springs - one of the metro region’s largest and newest cities - saw violent and property crime drop in 2008.

Police Chief Terry Sult, who completes his first year with the department in October, praised the news but refused to let his department alone take credit.

The department is just three years old. The city, four years. That means the nearly 90,000 residents there have been eager to get involved in helping prevent crime and work to help solve it when it occurs, Sult said.

“We have a partnership with our community here and that has been the significant factor in any crime reductions,” Sult said Monday, following the release of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. “There is real ownership of the police department here.”

Violent crimes such as murder, rape and robbery dipped by about three percent, according to the data. Property crimes fell by nearly 9 percent.

That happened during both early success and controversy for the force of 125 sworn officers. The department launched to much fanfare in July 2006 and earned state certification from the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police.

But Chief Gene Wilson, who had led the force since its inception, resigned last summer without giving a reason. The move came after several officers were fired when an investigation revealed, among other things, that some superiors directed officers to leave their shifts to do part-time traffic enforcement work.

Sult built upon some local partnerships when he first arrived and created others. The department, for instance works with the North Central Security Alliance, a consortium of private security firms, to battle crime in the Perimeter area and is in talks to joint a multi-jurisdictional task force on burglary.

This summer, Sult also created a crime prevention program for the city’s 75 apartment complexes, to help managers learn how to make physical changes to their property, such as making streetlights brighter or adding fences, to deter would-be criminals.

Sult also has shaken up the internal workings of the department, assigning teams of officers and supervisors to geographic districts in the city.

The system makes senior leaders directly responsible for their zones, and requires officers to develop more local contacts, to build their efforts around battling whatever crime or problem is plaguing that specific area, Sult said.

Certainly it underscores that sense of community and makes for better accountability for our force,” Sult said. “It reinforces the idea that the Sandy Springs Police Department belongs to the community.”