Thomaston Police Chief Mike Richardson proposed the addition of a local “crime suppression unit” to Mayor J.D. Stallings and members of the city council during a work session last Friday.
Citing a rise in crime nationwide – and in Thomaston – Chief Richardson said funds for creation of a four-man specialized unit will be part of his fiscal year 2022 budget request to council. The unit would focus on drug and gang activity in problem areas, according to Richardson, and would be available for use in multiple roles.
“Crime and violent crime are on the rise across the country. We are subject to that in Thomaston and have seen it as well, Richardson told council members. “Call volumes have increased since the start of the pandemic, causing our uniform patrol division to be stretched thin.
“This has contributed to a general lawlessness and recklessness in some areas,” he continued, “prompting numerous citizen complaints about loud music, drug activity, fighting, speeding through neighborhoods, drag racing, and loitering in large crowds.”
Richardson warned of growing gang activity in Thomaston and Upson County.
“Griffin and Spalding County have a large gang presence. We have seen an influx of those activities in the Thomaston area and have seen some of those members from the Griffin-Spalding area trying to recruit in Thomaston,” he stated. “Several cases we’ve worked over the past two years have had gang-related ties.
“We don’t have any mechanism to combat gangs other than our uniform patrol,” Richardson explained. “We have increased activity and productivity, and are very pleased with the numbers, but we need a designated unit.”
Richardson said the four-man unit would work together, deployed in problem areas to address drug and gang activity, but also could be detailed for specific problems requiring plain clothes undercover operation and surveillance. He emphasized that the group could oversee special events, execute high-risk warrants, assist with special investigations, and provide additional manpower if needed on routine calls.
Establishing a specialized unit would enhance TPD’s recruitment potential, the chief added, and would provide motivation for existing personnel to be promoted to the elite squad. The addition would increase TPD staff from 30 to 34.
Richardson did not submit cost estimates for creation of the proposed crime suppression unit. City Manager Russell Thompson said it is too soon to speculate on one-time setup or ongoing operating expense for such a program.