CUMMING -- With just a few months left before he presumably takes office, Forsyth County’s assumed next sheriff is already laying out plans.
Ron Freeman, a Republican who is running unopposed in November, spoke to American Legion Post 307 on Monday evening, where he answered questions and discussed plans for his administration — a priority being tackling drug use and trafficking.
“The most dangerous challenge we have right now is drugs,” Freeman said.
He said while he was running for office his campaign conducted anonymous surveys with local high school students asking about drug, alcohol and tobacco use among their three closest friends.
“The numbers blew me away,” Freeman said. “The drug usage in downtown Atlanta … is not nearly as bad as it is right here in Forsyth County.
“Those are the things we’re going to work on. We’ll probably come close to tripling the size of our narcotics squad in January.”
The crackdown, he said, is meant more for those dealing drugs and making significant money than a student with smaller amounts for personal use.
“From some of the information I have from some of the federal agencies and task forces working, there’s been as much as a million dollars sitting right here in drug houses in Forsyth County, and there’s been as much as 40 and 50 kilos of methamphetamine and cocaine sitting in houses here.”
Traffic issues were also discussed at the meeting, with Freeman pushing toward a program that will clear wrecks quicker. He said the current system involves sending an officer, who then needs to call a wrecker that could be anywhere in the county.
“The road’s now been blocked for 35 minutes, and the national average says that every minute in traffic adds four minutes to your commute,” he said. “We’re going to work some programs that we can get these wrecks cleared off [to] the side of the roads as fast as we can and hopefully do that in a five-seven minute time frame, rather than a 20-30 time frame.”
He said wrecks with serious injuries will still take longer due to other emergency response and safety reasons.
He also spoke on the growth the county will likely see over the next few decades and increased communication with other county offices.
“I’m warning them about overdevelopment and multi-family housing. I’m warning them about the public safety dangers down the road that we may face,” he said. “We‘ve got to be talking together between the school system, public safety — which is sheriff’s [office] and fire department — and our commissioners about the dangers that happen and the impact it’s going to have on public safety. ”
Freeman talked about reopening a precinct in south Forsyth, volunteer programs, using community relations to notify the public about crime issues and the use of more technology, including body cameras for officers, which he said the department currently has, though video storage is a costly issue.
“We’re going to immediately look at a test or a pilot program, because we have to really evaluate which ones are the best ones for us, because they’re fairly cheap to buy,” he said, “but guys, it’s the storage that you have to keep that can cost as much as $200,000-$250,000 a year.”