Will extra money help sheriff turn back crime surge?

Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 6:38 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 29, 2022 at 11:24 AM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Augusta city leaders signed off on a more than $1 billion budget for next year.

That includes a nearly $2 million increase for public safety.

It comes as this year’s homicide numbers are near a five-year high, and shootings are already the second highest during that span.

We spoke with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office. Leaders say that increase isn’t going to the right places.

“I think it’s frustrating for both the sheriff and I. We’ve been here for 10 years now,” said Chief Deputy Patrick Clayton.

While an almost $2 million pay raise may feel like a plus to some, Clayton says it’s not going to help as much as the agency needs.

“What you’re going to find is that was money that was reallocated from one section to another, that was not enhancements, is what I’m getting at,” he said.

News 12 Craig Allision: “But with that extra $2 million, though, that’s gotta go somewhere within y’all’s department, though.”

Clayton: “I just told you.”

He gave us this sheet of 15 requests he says the department made going into this budget cycle.

Noting that only two requests adding up to nearly $600,000 made it through. He says what they needed most is higher wages for deputies and more funding for the Webster Detention Center.

One reason why District 10 Augusta Commission member John Clarke voted against the now-approved budget.

“Overfunding was made, and in other circumstances, underfunding was made. The sheriff’s department needs the funding because they really need to hire deputies,” he said.

But, they’ll have to make do for now.

Clayton said: “We just want to do the best job that we can, and we do, each and every day.”

We reached out to other members of the Augusta Public Safety Committee but only heard back from Clarke. The fiscal year law enforcement budget for 2023 is now set at more than $72 million. The highest it’s ever been, making up almost seven percent of the entire city budget.