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License-plate readers, new positions among sheriff’s office wants in 2020 budget
The Forsyth County Jail in downtown Cumming.

The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office is taking steps to reduce vehicle break-ins at Forsyth County parks.

While discussing the office’s 2020 budget on Tuesday during a meeting with the county’s finance committee, Sheriff Ron Freeman brought up funding for camera and license-plate-reading technology to be installed at parks and other areas in the county.

“It would be at parks and maybe around Halcyon or something like that, depending on if we start seeing issues,” Freeman said. “It would be, kind of, fixed cameras and a license plate-reader or combination of the two. I’ve got two parks with cameras with them already that we’re doing.”

Freeman said the existing cameras were cost-effective and the aim of the program is to reduce break-ins at popular areas, particularly those targeted due to their closeness to Ga. 400.

“If we can put a camera that reads license plates that might help solve crimes and keep people safe, I want to do it,” said District 4 Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, who serves on the committee.  

Along with the new cameras, Freeman said the department was looking to add four new positions, including two involved in court security and two specializing in hi-tech crimes for the major crimes unit, which he said would target fraud, identity theft, larceny and other crimes.

“[Larceny] is the only area, per se, that we have increased in crime,” he said. “I’m tired of bad guys from other places and other states getting away, so we want to invest in going after bad guys. There’s a reason that we have the lowest crime rates in metro Atlanta, and that’s because we go after bad guys. This is just taking that next step toward hi-tech crimes; computer crimes would be a better word.’”

Separate from the four new positions, another expenditure expected by the office but not an item on the budget — instead being possibly paid for through a contingency fund — is increased staff at the Forsyth County Jail.

“We’re on the cusp in our jail headcount of having to open a new pod. I’m not there yet, but headcount drives how many pods or cells I have to open up. If I have to open a new pod, it will take five deputies. What I did not want to do is come before the finance committee or board … and it’s five months before that comes up.”

The committee approved moving ahead with funding for the four new positions and cameras. 

The sheriff’s office was one of several county-funded departments to discuss their funding as part of the budget process. Once approved by the committee, the budget will go to the board of commissioners later this year.