Drug offenders suspected of avoiding Hiawassee

City Police, News
Hiawassee Police Department

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Police Department announced a “new low” in felony drug arrests, and the suspected reason for the decline is surprising.

According to Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, word of his department’s vigilance has spread, and individuals possessing illicit substances may be traveling an alternate route to evade city law enforcement.

During Hiawassee City Council’s regular session on Tuesday, April 3, Chief Smith recalled an incident involving a drug-related arrest. Smith stated that the suspect readily admitted that he should have avoided Hiawassee, specifically mentioning Highway 288 as the passage the driver divulged should have been chosen instead.

Highway 288, also known as Sunnyside Road, winds south of Hiawassee’s perimeter, beyond the city police department’s jurisdiction.

In comparison to the first three months of the previous year, 2018 has witnessed a noticeable decrease in the number of drug arrests conducted by Hiawassee Police Department.

From January until March of 2017, nine misdemeanor drug arrests and 17 felony drug arrests took place. The current year-to-date statistics show only two misdemeanor drug arrests, along with eight felony drug charges.

“There was another person that let us look through their phone after we arrested them, giving us consent to search their device,” Chief Smith disclosed in an interview with FetchYourNews (FYN). “Someone had messaged them, saying something along the lines of, ‘Why did you go through Hiawassee?'”

A patrol officer with the Hiawassee Police Department relayed that, he too, has heard rumors of Highway 288 being the preferred course of travel for perpetrators hoping to avoid city law enforcement.

The majority of drug arrests occurring within the city limits of Hiawassee are the result of traffic stops initiated for citation-related offenses, such as speeding or improper vehicle requirements.

FYN contacted Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton for his thoughts on the theory that drug offenders are skirting Hiawassee in favor of Highway 288, a route which falls under his department’s jurisdiction.

“I am unaware of any official statement by the City of Hiawassee making such a claim. My office has received no criminal intelligence, much less evidence, of any such criminal methodology,” Sheriff Clinton stated via email.

In contrast to 2017 data, Hiawassee Police Department’s self-initiated reports have decreased by 25 percent this year.  The agency has seen a 40 percent increase in dispatched calls, however, in the first quarter of 2018.

Hiawassee Police Department has generated a total of 868 case numbers in the past three months.  The amount is a combination of traffic stops, citations, and calls for service.

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Questions surface after school lock-down drill

News

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – On the morning of Wednesday, March 14, 2018, a lock-down training exercise took place at Towns County School at 10 a.m. While there was a call for a nationwide walk-out in remembrance of the 17 lives lost Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, many schools across the nation chose a proactive approach.

FetchYourNews (FYN) learned of the drill and hoped to highlight the positive measures taken.

In the aftermath of the Parkland tragedy, FYN has reported on the subject of school safety in Towns, Gilmer, Fannin, UnionLumpkin, and Dawson County, Georgia, as well as Cherokee County, North Carolina.

While the safety of students is not being called into question, with FYN maintaining conviction that security is of the utmost concern for Towns County School administrators and Towns County first responders, unexpected questions arose during our research.

Towns County GA lockdown drill

Letter sent to the parents of elementary school students

In a letter forwarded to FYN, dated March 13, 2018, and signed by Towns County Elementary Principal Dr. Sandra Page, parents of elementary school children were advised a day in advance that the drill would occur. The letter reads, in part, that “during an active shooter drill, it is necessary to reenact the scenario of a shooter on campus in order to find strengths and possible weaknesses in our emergency plans.”

The letter goes on to state that “local agencies such as the police, EMS (emergency medical services), and the fire department will be involved in this drill and will be arriving on campus.”

Following an unsuccessful, in-person attempt to acquire sufficient information on the active shooter drill from the Towns County Sheriff’s courthouse office, FYN contacted the emergency agencies listed as participants in the training exercise.

FYN was surprised to learn that the Hiawassee Police Department, Towns County Emergency Medical Services (EMS), Towns County Fire and Rescue, as well as the Towns County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) were not notified that a drill was scheduled, and therefore did not participate.

At a Movers and Shakers meeting held Feb. 23, Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton, along with Towns County School Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong, spoke with concerned citizens regarding school safety. The sheriff divulged that a few years had passed since an active shooter drill was conducted.

Sheriff Clinton opened his speech by recalling a recent conversation with Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith.

“The chief and I were just discussing this, what, a week ago maybe, that it’s about time that we do another one, and that we do it together,” Sheriff Clinton assured.

Sheriff Clinton continued, “How do we make our children safer? Now. Not some place down the road at some philosophical perfect normal for you, but right now. How do we do that? Frankly, at the end of the day, we have to make it a harder target.”

After referencing the 1999 Columbine tragedy, Sheriff Clinton asked, “What’s been done by the government to make our children safer? Not a single thing. Because a lot of people think they can get up and talk about it, and they can harp on whatever their pet issue is. I’m pro-gun, I’m anti-gun, whatever, but as long as they’re talking about it and people are listening, they are getting political mileage out of it, and they really don’t care. I’m sorry, but I care.

“I’m coming to silence the gun. I’m not coming to survive it. I’m coming to silence the gun,” Sheriff Clinton emphasized. “Frankly, that’s what I expect from every deputy sheriff and every law enforcement officer in this nation. God help me if I have to walk past my own children while they bleed. I’m coming to silence the gun.”

At the conclusion of the forum, Sheriff Clinton acknowledged a need to ensure all first responders are familiar with the school’s campus and lock-down procedure. The sheriff told those in attendance that it is up to the community to decide what level of security they want in place. “I work for you,” Sheriff Clinton reminded.

FYN contacted Sheriff Chris Clinton on the evening of the lock-down in anticipation of learning why his plans to include other emergency agencies had changed.

Sheriff Clinton failed to provide an explanation, focusing rather on garnering the individual identities of FYN’s sources. Shortly after asked if proper protocol was followed, a concern brought to the attention of FYN by an emergency official, Sheriff Clinton ended communication.

The following day, Thursday, March 15, FYN Chief Executive Officer Brian Pritchard sat down with Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, and Towns County Fire Chief Harold Copeland, reconfirming the lack of communication and coordination.

FYN met with Superintendent Dr. Darren Berrong on Friday, March 16, in search of further clarification.

Berrong revealed that the active shooter drill was implemented between himself and Sheriff Clinton, following the Movers and Shakers forum.

When the question was posed concerning the absence of agencies, Berrong replied, “Well, (the school) wasn’t sure of everyone who was involved. I think there were some of those individuals there.” Upon learning that was not the case, Berrong stated there may have been a miscommunication in verbiage, saying, “Personally, for me, it wasn’t about the fire department. It was about the police officers.”

Berrong was then asked to recap the drill.

“At 10:00, Mr. Perren came over the announcement through all three schools and informed them we were going into a lock-down, that there would be police officers walking through the hallways, make sure to keep your doors locked, and to keep the kids in a safe area,” Superintendent Berrong explained. “While that was going on, police officers were making their rounds through the building, just to make sure they were still familiar with what the campus actually looks like, what’s going on during a lock-down, where can you go and where can’t you go in case there is a shooter in the school, and what areas can we access. They made their rounds through the school while we were in lock-down. We were in lock-down probably ten minutes. Our school isn’t a very big building, you can make a round through there fairly quickly. So ten to fifteen minutes, and pretty much that was the end of the drill.”

FYN inquired if there are plans to hold a subsequent active shooter exercise. “We may have further drills. We don’t have any planned currently,” Dr. Berrong said. “Sheriff Clinton and I are in discussion about this summer, getting together with all personnel, fire department and everyone, just to sit down and make sure everyone has plans of the school building, and make sure everyone has access to the ‘Crisis Go’ app, which alerts people when there is an emergency on campus, and just have another round-table discussion about what we are going to do when something like that happens, how do we shut the campus down. We had one of those several years ago, but it’s about time we had another one.”

FYN contacted Towns County School Facility Director Roy Perren. Director Perren relayed that the exercise was exclusively planned for the Towns County Sheriff’s Office and that there was never an intention to include other emergency agencies. The facility director added that a Towns County School meeting will be held in conjunction with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) April 13 concerning the involvement of all first responders, should an emergency situation arise.

Elementary School Principle Dr. Sandra Page returned FYN’s request for comment on the afternoon of Monday, March 19.

Page stated that to her knowledge, the active shooter exercise was changed to simply a lock-down drill on the morning of March 14, shortly before the training occurred, excluding the need for the involvement of  agencies other than the Towns County Sheriff’s Office. “I just wanted to get the information out so that students, parents, and teachers were aware that a drill was going to take place,” Dr. Page said. “That was my main concern.”

This left FYN with more questions than answers, considering that none of the emergency agencies listed in the letter had been notified that an active shooter drill had been scheduled.

Hiawassee Police Department, Towns County EMS, Towns County Fire and Rescue, and Towns County EMA state that their departments expect to take part in future training exercises.

 

 

 

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin@FetchYourNews.com

UPDATE: Hiawassee motel shooting

News
budget inn shooting

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Just before midnight on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, the Hiawassee Police Department responded to a call from the Hiawassee Budget Inn on South Main Street in reference to a subject attempting to force entry into a room. Upon arrival, officers discovered that a person had been shot. The shooter had fled the scene on foot.

The Towns County Sheriff’s Office and Hiawassee Police Department canvased the area attempting to locate the shooter. The victim, 40-year-old Lee Conard, of Young Harris, Georgia, was transported by air ambulance to Northeast Georgia Medical Center with a bullet wound to the arm.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigations was called to investigate the shooting. As the investigation was ending,  the assailant, Christopher Cody Wiggins, 18, returned to the scene and surrendered to the officers still present. Wiggins then lead officers approximately three-quarters of a mile to where he had dropped the gun used in the incident.

Wiggins is currently being held at the Towns County Detention Center and has been charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

“A matter of inches is all that kept this from being a homicide instead of an aggravated assault. Those involved were very fortunate that no life was lost,” Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith told FetchYourNews. “The quick response and teamwork from all emergency personnel helped bring this case to a close before the sun rose. As always, we are appreciative of the assistance provided by the Towns County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.”

Investigators learned that Conard sustained the gunshot wound while hiding in the bathroom with 18-year-old Abagail Petoskey, of Young Harris. Wiggins shot through the bathroom door multiple times, striking Conard in the arm. Petoskey was not injured.

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns, and Murray counties, as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. 

For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Hiawassee Police Department 2017 year-in-review

City Police, News
Chief Paul Smith

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The Hiawassee Police Department (HPD) had an eventful and busy 2017. Chief Arvel Walls retired in May after dutifully serving the citizens of Towns County for 33 years. Paul Smith was named acting police chief until he was sworn in as police chief on Aug. 1, 2017.

In May, a fifth full-time officer was hired to help combat the growing problem of drugs in our community. Until this point, Hiawassee Police officers had served individual 12-hour shifts. Having a fifth position allowed for an officer to focus on drug and traffic interdiction, but also provide back up for other officers.

With a new position dedicated to drug interdiction, felony drug arrests nearly doubled over the previous year. By the end of December, the Hiawassee Police Department had arrested 107 individuals for drug-related crimes. Of those 107 arrests, 61 were felony drug crimes, and the remaining 46 were misdemeanor drug crimes. In addition to the drug arrests, HPD officers arrested 110 other individuals on non-drug-related charges, many of which were traffic-related crimes.

November ended with an armed robbery at Save-A-Lot, the first armed robbery on record in Hiawassee. Detective Brandon Barrett took the lead on the investigation and, within two weeks, had arrested the individuals responsible for the crime.

Hiawassee Police Department made over 1,500 traffic stops during 2017, resulting in over 800 citations, 200 written warnings, and 500 verbal warnings. Officers responded to over 1,600 calls for service, including incidents from an armed robbery to livestock in the roadway.

Hiawassee Police Department thanks everyone for their support and looks forward to continuing to serve the citizens and visitors of Hiawassee in the coming year.

(Featured Image: Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith)

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Horse struck and killed after Christmas parade

News
horse parade

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County’s Christmas parade ended on a tragic note on Saturday, Nov. 25, for a horse participating in the annual procession. Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith told Fetch Your News (FYN) the incident occurred on Main Street, near Tater Ridge, shortly before 7 p.m.

A Ford Focus, red in color, struck the horse from the rear, dismounting the rider and injuring a female nearby. The male rider suffered neck and back injuries, losing consciousness prior to airlift medical transport. The female was taken via ambulance to a nearby facility.

Chief Smith was the first responding officer on scene. The chief tells FYN the driver stated she gazed down to adjust the heater in the vehicle and did not see the horse on the darkened road prior to impact.

Sadly, the horse perished on site.

Chief Smith says he plans to work alongside Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw and Sheriff Chris Clinton to construct a plan allowing equestrian trailers to park at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds, the route’s destination, during parades to avoid tragedies such as this in the future.

Georgia State Patrol is investigating the accident.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith Recalls “Shop with a Hero”

City Police, Feature News
Chief Paul Smith

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith offered an emotional account of a Christmas past, expressing his care and concern for the children of Towns County, on the morning of Friday, Nov. 17, 2017, before the Movers and Shakers at Sundance Grill.

Chief Smith described the annual Shop with a Hero program, designed to provide disadvantaged youth with an opportunity to bond with area first responders while purchasing gifts, in hopes of a happier holiday season.

The program was implemented in 2006 by the late Chief Jimmy Wright, four years prior to Smith becoming an officer with the Hiawassee Police Department.

Originally known as “Shop with a Cop,” there were not enough law enforcement officers available to provide a one-on-one experience. Several children were once assigned to a single officer. Firefighters, EMS personnel, and the Coast Guard auxiliary are now active in the outreach.

Shop with a Hero began in 2015.

The police chief reminisced on a past year’s experience.

Smith was paired with a sixth-grade boy as they traveled with other students and officers to Walmart, each child allotted $200 in spending cash. Smith said the child chose some things for himself, then asked if he could spend the remainder on his parents. The sixth-grader decided on a gold cross necklace for his mother and cologne for his father. The boy proceeded to return the items he planned to purchase for himself, in order to buy gifts for his brother and sister who would otherwise not receive presents that year.

“It was such a moving experience,” Chief Smith told the group. “It made quite an impact on me.”

The now-chief later saw the student on the Hiawassee Square during the city’s Halloween festivities, and he remembered the officer in a kind light. Smith said the child had witnessed him arrest a relative, yet it was the shopping expedition that stood forefront in the boy’s mind. “Sometimes the only experience (children have) is seeing us in a law enforcement capacity,” Smith explained.

Several listeners fought back tears as Chief Smith recalled the memory.

A member of the Movers and Shakers asked the chief how many children participate in the annual program. “Usually about 20 kids, based on how much money we can raise,” Chief Smith replied.

Bill “Scotty” Scott, a group leader, announced he felt guided to “pass the hat” to collect donations for the community program and $944 was accumulated, the largest amount in Movers and Shaker’s history, affording additional children an opportunity to experience a joyful Christmas.

Businesses and residents can participate in the generous outreach via checks made out to Shop with a Hero, delivered in person at Hiawassee City Hall or mailed to:

Hiawassee Police Department – c/o Chief Paul Smith – 50 River Street – Hiawassee, GA 30546

The outing is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017.

 

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin@FetchYourNews.com

State Fraternal Order of Police Donates Ballistic Vests to Hiawassee Police Department

City Police, News
Hiawassee Police Department

HIAWASSEE, GA – The Georgia Fraternal Order of Police has donated three ballistic vests to the Hiawassee Police Department. The vests, provided through the Georgia FOP’s “Operation Protect Our Protectors” ballistic vest program, were presented to Chief Paul Smith by Craig Fulghum, chairman of the ballistic vest committee for the Georgia Fraternal Order of Police.

“We are extremely grateful to the Georgia Fraternal Order of Police for their donation of three ballistic vests to the Hiawassee Police Department. While every officer was previously wearing a vest, three of them were beyond the manufacturer’s recommended use date, and did not fit the officers well,” Chief Smith said. “These newly donated vests were measured specifically for the officers they were issued to for maximum comfort and protection.”

“Operation Protect Our Protector” is designed to donate ballistic vests to law enforcement agencies across Georgia, specifically to those agencies that cannot afford to purchase the vests.

“Officer safety is a very important issue to all of us in law enforcement, and the ballistic vest has been proven to save lives and reduce injuries,” said Fulghum. “Every officer should wear a ballistic vest every day. The FOP is working to ensure that more officers within our state have this extra level of security.”

The Georgia FOP represents 4,000 law enforcement members across the state and is part of the nation’s largest law enforcement organization, with more than 318,000 members nationwide. The FOP is committed to achieving better working conditions and benefits for its members and to providing quality service to the public.

The Georgia FOP works to improve communities across the state in a number of ways, including the donation of ballistic vests to underfunded law enforcement agencies, support for Easter Seals and the “Cops and Kids” program, in which officers take children shopping during the holidays.

Fetch Your News is a hyper local news outlet that attracts more than 300,000 page views and 3.5 million impressions per month in Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Fannin, Gilmer, Pickens, Union, Towns and Murray counties as well as Cherokee County in N.C. – FYNTV attracts approximately 15,000 viewers per week and reaches between 15,000 to 60,000 per week on our Facebook page. – For the most effective, least expensive local advertising, call 706-276-6397 or email us at advertise@FetchYourNews.com

 

 

 

 

 

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin@FetchYourNews.com

Hiawassee Police Chief Completes Executive Training

News
Chief Paul Smith

Hiawassee, GA – Chief Paul Smith of the Hiawassee Police Department attended the Chief Executive Training Class for newly appointed chiefs of police and heads of law enforcement agencies at the Dr. Curtis E. McClung Training Center in Duluth, GA from September 18-27, 2017.

The 60-hour course, administered and provided by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police (GACP), is required by state law for newly appointed heads of law enforcement agencies.

The curriculum is designed to provide newly appointed law enforcement administrators and command staff personnel training on police management, as well as inform them of laws and policies impacting their departments.

Topics covered in the course include: Managerial Liability and E.E.O.C. Laws, Police Manpower Allocation & Staffing, Community Policing, Budget Administration, Political and Practical Realities, Risk Management, Evolution of Ethics, Media Relations, Departmental Organization, Employee Selection Process, Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Overview, Promotional Systems, United States Department of Justice Programs, Leadership/Management Role of the Chief, Employee Performance & Employee Discipline, Legislative Process, Social Media for Law Enforcement Leaders, and other timely topics.

“The Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police is pleased to provide executive level training for the professional development of Georgia’s new law enforcement leaders.” said GACP President Dennis Nelson of the Clayton County Department of Corrections.

Chief Smith was among 50 law enforcement administrators attending the course. The GACP provides executive training for newly appointed heads of law enforcement agencies and command staff personnel twice a year, along with several other training programs throughout the state. It is the largest professional association for law enforcement administrators in Georgia, and one of the largest in the country.

The membership of over 1,700 includes executives representing municipal and county law enforcement agencies, college and university police departments, corporate and private security firms, and numerous state and federal agencies.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin@FetchYourNews.com

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