News 12 at 11 o'clock / Monday, May 13, 2013
AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- It has been three months since Operation Thunder began.
They've had 28 road checks all over Richmond County, and officers have written hundreds of citations, but it's not over yet. They will continue through the beginning of June, but for the next few weeks, they're taking on a new role downtown.
Around 40 more officers were on patrol downtown this weekend.
"I've never seen anything like it before," said Anthony Kennedy who DJs downtown. "I kinda felt like I was in a military zone. There was tons of cops everywhere."
"Because of what happened it was to show that, yes, we are doing something about it," added Jonathan Pigford, who lives downtown.
It began over the weekend. More deputies in cars and on foot patrol were downtown following a series of brutal attacks over the past few weeks.
"We all work together for the citizens of Richmond County, so whenever we have a problem, we come together to try to solve it," said Lt. Ramone Lamkin with the Traffic Division.
Many of those extra patrols come from Operation Thunder.
"Any type of state-funded program, we have like the GOHS, we can allocate 7 percent of their time to do something else," Lamkin said.
They have to spend the majority of their time to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities on the road, but after the problems downtown, they decided to send some extra help.
"We're stepping out a little bit out of the traffic role and going down there doing foot patrol," Lamkin said.
They will continue doing that through the month of May, but Pigford says more police presence can also be intimidating.
"You do need a police presence to show, yes, this stuff is not tolerable, we need to do something about it and don't bring that here, but at the same time, to what extent?" Pigford said.
He says there's a fine line between helpful and hurtful.
"Are you trying to overdo it or are you putting just enough to be able to say, hey we're here watching, making sure you're not gonna go anything, but at the same time, let the people in the community enjoy themselves," Pigford said.
So far, Operation Thunder has arrested 34 fugitives, from robbery to carjacking suspects. They have made 15 felony arrests, 50 drug arrests and written more than 250 DUI citations.
The Traffic Division says they aren't where they wanted to be by this point because they're still writing the same number of tickets, but they have reduced the number of fatalities, so they consider the operation a success. At this time last year, there were 12 fatalities compared to seven so far this year.