SMART program stepping up downtown security with more community policing

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Friday, May 9th, 2014

Richmond County S.M.A.R.T. unit (WRDW-TV)

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW)- Starting a new business can always be a little risky, especially when it comes to finances, but Elaine Darcy has another concern.

"Being a new business owner I've heard a lot about past crimes that have happened," Darcy said.

Go back two years, a first Friday turned into a shooting spree. It left six people injured with gun shot wounds, something that spurred a need in security downtown.

"Since I've been here, things seem to be pretty safe from what I'm seeing," Darcy said.

Darcy has seen a step up in police presence. A year ago Richmond County deputies started community policing which they say contributed to a drop in crime numbers. This year, there's a new initiative. The SMART program, which has what they call citizens on patrol teaming up with deputies.

"The objective: one to be seen, two to build a strong relationship with downtown business owners, and managers, in the business area, Broad Street, Reynolds Street, and the Riverwalk," said Sgt. Shane McDaniel.

The Richmond County Sheriff's office will have about three people walking around and patrolling downtown being their eyes and their ears.

"They don't have arrest powers, they don't have hand cuffs or a gun, but what they do have is a radio and they will be assigned to deputies," McDaniel said.

When the citizen patrol sees something suspicious, they make a call.

"We try to be everywhere we can, but we can't be every place and this is just an added bonus," said Sgt. Shane McDaniel.

Darcy said seeing anyone walking around is a step in the right direction, and she hopes they keep it up.

"Any presence of anybody in law enforcement or security is always an awareness to the criminal that somebody is mindful of what's going on downtown," Darcy said.

For now, the smart program will be only be downtown, but if it works deputies say you could see it in other parts of the county too.

Meanwhile, everyone will notice more deputies on the roads, thanks to the new traffic patrol division.

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