From the Desk of Sheriff Chris Clinton
Towns County, Georgia
As I reflect on the horrible tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that destroyed lives and brought such sorrow and grief to so many families, there are no words that can properly convey how I feel for those hurt by this despicable act of evil. I’m sure there will be some who will be offended by my thoughts and that is their right. I can only hope they will understand that this is an issue that is very near to my heart as Sheriff of Towns County. I have often stated that school shootings are the most horrible of crimes and the nightmare of Sheriffs everywhere.
I find it extremely unfortunate that in the aftermath of such horrible tragedies, there are those who inevitably attempt to make a political profit by jumping on the Second Amendment issue. Over the years, it seems that there are many who almost want this issue to remain because they make political hay from it. So often it seems that the same people who blame law enforcement for shootings, whether justified or not, want to blame the firearm for the shootings carried out by mass murderers.
Too many news reports want to talk about the personal issues the shooter may have been experiencing, as though it matters at this point. The time to have helped the individual would’ve been before he shot up a school. Then, some of these same reporters blame the NRA and anyone else who believes in the Second Amendment as their best defense against such acts, which does nothing at all to address the problem. The problem is a condition of the human heart that allows an individual to perpetrate such unspeakable horrors. While it may well be unfortunate that the shooter went down a dark path, it happened. It is too late to help this sick individual. Actions have consequences and the actions taken by this individual are so evil that they demand justice. Justice is for the victims, those who lost their lives, those who lost loved ones, the community, the whole nation; we have all been harmed. It no longer matters what led up to the shooter doing this. It has been done and it demands justice.
What we can do is look for real solutions to trying to prevent these horrific acts from occurring. These acts of violence have always plagued the human race, which is why the Office of Sheriff is the oldest elected office in the history of the world. There are those who, when given the opportunity, will harm the innocent. The question becomes how do we stop them or at least do all that we can to do prevent them from carrying out these horrific evils.
Eliminating guns is an impractical and flawed argument. Guns aren’t the only weapons of choice by this type of criminal. In the Township of Bath Michigan, on May 18, 1927, 38 elementary school children and 6 adults were murdered, while 58 others were injured by a mad man, who had formerly served as the school board treasurer. Andrew Kehoe did not use a gun. The much talked about AR-15 had not even been invented yet. Kehoe used homemade bombs to carry out this horrible crime. On June 11, 1964 in Cologne, West Germany, a deranged criminal used a homemade flame thrower and lance to murder eight students, two teachers, and injure twenty-two others.
While many would ask to ban guns, I ask can we ban evil. We have laws against murder, but it still happens daily. Not all murders involve a firearm. Some crimes are prevented by firearms. Firearms are inanimate objects with no will of their own. They can be used by humans for perpetrating evil, but they may also be used by humans to defend against evil. Jeff Cooper in “The Art of the Rifle” made the following observation, “The rifle itself has no moral stature, since it has no will of its own. Naturally, it may be used by evil men for evil purposes, but there are more good men than evil, and while the latter cannot be persuaded to the path of righteousness by propaganda, they can certainly be corrected by good men with rifles.”
While some may take offense at the harsh, cold reality, I believe that we should look at ways of protecting our precious children, rather than making them more vulnerable. I am committed to doing all I can, including the willingness to lay down my own life, to protect our children. I only ask that we look for solutions in keeping our children safe, not in some far off imagined utopia where no one breaks the law, but today. We have lost too many precious lives and rhetoric has done nothing to deter crime. My thoughts and prayers go out the families and community of these precious children who were the unarmed, undefended victims of an evil act of violence perpetrated by a criminal. My heart breaks for them.
From the Desk of Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton:
During the holiday season, busy people intent on trying to complete their Christmas shopping often become the target of criminals who seek to steal packages from vehicles parked in mall and shopping center parking lots. The following information is provided in conjunction with your Georgia Sheriffs’ Association and is intended to help you from becoming the next victim.
When shopping, look for the best lit parking spaces. Once in your chosen space, look around before leaving your car. Is there anyone in the vicinity watching you? Do you see anyone loitering? If so, remain in your car and watch them for a moment. If they move on, that’s fine, but if not, you might consider moving to a new parking space. If you feel uncertain or unsafe about a situation you observe, take steps to move yourself to a safer location. Don’t assume you are being foolish or paranoid.
Once you are in a safer location, lock your vehicle and move quickly and confidently to the store. Would-be thieves and robbers are looking for the easiest targets. If you show that you are aware of what is happening around you and move with a sense of purpose, you are less likely to become a victim. Walk against the flow and traffic.
Keep your head up and scanning—look forward, to the right and left, and even check behind as you walk. Awareness is your greatest defense. Don’t search through a purse or bags in the parking lot. If you must look for something, make sure you are in the safety of the store before you become absorbed in your hunt for a tissue, shopping list or other item.
If you store items in your vehicle, make sure they are covered or concealed. If you are putting bags in your vehicle and returning to shop, move your car from time to time in case someone is watching you.
Finally, if leaving late from a shopping mall or store, don’t hesitate to ask a store employee for help. Don’t accept the kind offer of the “stranger” who meets you outside the door and offers assistance. It may be a kind and generous offer, but it could also be ploy to gain access to your belongings.
Be aware, stay safe, and have a joyous and wonderful holiday season!
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From the Desk of Sheriff Christopher M. Clinton –
Towns County Schools were back in session as of Thursday, August 3rd. Please be aware that in the mornings from approximately 7:30 AM until approximately 8:00 AM there will be increased traffic in front of the school. Traffic will again increase around 3:00 PM. The Sheriff’s Office will be providing traffic control to assist with safety.
Also, please be mindful that school buses will be picking up and dropping off children in the mornings and afternoons. It is the duty of any driver of a motor vehicle, when passing or overtaking a school bus from either direction, to come to a complete stop before reaching the school bus at any time the visual signals of the bus are on. The driver shall not resume travel until the bus has once again resumed travel and has deactivated the signals. Passing a stopped school bus is a serious traffic offense. School bus drivers are authorized and directed under Georgia law to make a report describing any vehicle committing the offense. Said report will then be turned over to the local law enforcement having authority and a citation issued.
The following information, provided by Safe Kids USA, is offered to parents of school age children. These are helpful ideas that may help keep your child safe.
School buses are generally considered one of the safest ways to travel; however, an estimated 5,000 children are injured each year in school bus related accidents. Many of these injuries occur when children are entering or exiting the bus. This is likely due to the fact that the driver has a blind spot of about 10 feet around the bus. This is sometimes difficult for younger children to understand. Half of all school-age pedestrians killed in bus-related crashes are between 5 and 7 years old (SAFE KIDS USA)
• Help keep children safe by teaching them to wait until the bus comes to a complete stop, the door opens, and the bus driver says that it is safe to board the bus.
• Make sure children know that they should never walk behind or close to the sides of a bus.
• Teach children to never run across the road to catch a school bus.
• Pay extra attention and never speed when driving in a school zone and around school buses and pedestrians.
As any parent will tell you, our children are our greatest blessings in life. As your Sheriff, I am committed to doing all that I can to help our children remain safe. Please help by being extra alert when driving and reminding others to do so as well.
As we prepare to host the 9th annual fundraiser for the Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes I thought it would be good to talk a bit about what the Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes are and how they came about. The purpose of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes is, in the words of the Sheriffs’ Association, “to give our state’s most at-risk children the love, safety, and structure needed to become mature, successful adults.
The Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes grew out of a concern that the Sheriffs of Georgia have for abused and neglected children. During the 1950’s the sheriffs noticed that this was a growing problem across the state and began to consider ways to make a difference in the lives of these children who, through no fault of their own, had become victims of abuse and neglect. The sheriffs considered this project vital for these children and for our state.
In 1960 Georgia’s Sheriffs were able to open the first Georgia Sheriffs’ Boys Ranch near Hahira, Georgia. The Boys Ranch provided children an opportunity to learn “strong moral values, religious awareness, personal responsibility, teamwork and acceptance of authority, as well as how to overcome adversity” (Georgia Sheriffs’). This first campus was only the start of a vision that would continue to grow. Today there are four additional campuses that provide a nurturing atmosphere for boys and girls placed strategically across the state.
The Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes are designed to teach children that they are able to overcome their difficulties and that if they work for it, they can obtain a better life for themselves. I think that all children deserve to be given a chance to succeed.
On Friday, June 16, 2017 the Chatuge Gun Club and I will be hosting our 9th annual trap shoot at the Chatuge Gun Club shooting range located on Owl Creek Rd. Last year we added a banquet and will continue that tradition this year. The banquet will feature live music by the Chris Clinton Band and will be held on Saturday, June 17, 2017 beginning at 5:30 pm at the Towns County Recreation and Conference Center, located at 150 Foster Park Rd. All the proceeds go directly to benefit the children of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes and because the Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes is a public charity, any donation to the Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes qualifies for the highest tax deduction allowed by law.
Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa. Those are the names of the five officers who lost their lives in the Dallas shooting last week. These were real people with families and people they cared about, who cared about them. You never hear their names in the media; you only hear the names of officers who are accused, often wrongfully, of making a mistake. Perhaps that is why three more officers were ambushed on Sunday in Louisiana, or why a gunman attempted to ambush four officers in Baltimore last Thursday evening.
It would seem that for several years now there is a growing trend of reckless comments being made by elected officials and their friends in the media, comments that have led to the loss of innocent lives, like that of Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth, a husband and father of two young children who was shot fifteen times in the back and back of his head, while pumping gas. Deputy Goforth was murdered for no reason other than the fact that he was wearing a uniform.
Much of the anger that is causing this type of violence is based on false narratives that are being perpetuated by “news” stories that contain little or no fact. I find it ironic that the Dallas area officers were simply protecting the rights of the citizens to have a peaceful protest when they were murdered because they were wearing the uniform.
I find it even more disturbing that our media has begun to use their right of being a free press to promote lies, stir up anger and hate, and to cause innocent lives to be lost. I believe that our founders envisioned a free press as a protector of the truth, not as a means to promote an agenda through lies. I believe that there is a duty and a responsibility of every American to protect our liberty and the things that make our country great, but that Americans are having their rights taken away through deception.
The truth matters. Words have meaning and they are the only tools we have to convey thought. I agree with my good friend and colleague, Sheriff Scott Berry of Oconee County when he says that, while we are all entitled to draw our own conclusions, we are not entitled to our own set of facts. I fear that as a nation we are devolving into a form of anarchy being brought on by lies, innuendo, and half truths.
James Madison, known as the Father of the Constitution, said in a letter to W.T. Barry, “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
I would encourage anyone interested in seeing first hand what our Sheriff’s Office does to protect us and what it is actually like to be a deputy sheriff, to consider taking one of our upcoming Citizen Law Enforcement Academy (CLEA) classes. Our CLEA graduates are armed with knowledge and are better able to take ownership in the Sheriff’s Office. They get an honest, first-hand view that simply isn’t available in the media.
Our next class begins Tuesday, August 23, at 3:00 PM and will meet each Tuesday for ten weeks. Anyone interested in being in this class should contact the Sheriff’s Office at 706-896-4444.
Americans travel during the warm summer months more than any other time of year. Criminals often take advantage of this busy season, preying upon weary travelers or watching for unattended homes or vehicles. With that in mind, the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association offers the following travel tips for a safe and happy summer:
Before you leave:
• When you leave your residence, try to make your home look as occupied as possible. Ask a trusted neighbor or friend to pick up mail and newspaper or package deliveries daily. Invest in a few electrical timers to activate lights at the same time you normally do when you are at home. Set your radio on a talk station so anyone listening at a door or window will hear conversation. (Keep the radio on a timer, too.)
• Notify your sheriff’s office that you will be away and ask them to check your residence. Let them know of light timers, alarm systems, and vehicles left visible in the driveway.
• If you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, consider arranging for a house sitter to stay in your residence. House sitters water plants, take care of pets, and can also be called upon to keep the lawn mowed so it doesn’t advertise your absence.
• Cancel regular deliveries, such as food, pharmacy prescriptions, or pet supplies.
• Before you leave, take a final walk through your home to make sure appliances are turned off and windows and doors are secure.
• Since summer storms can come up suddenly, you may want to unplug electronic equipment such as computers, televisions, or fax machines.
While you’re traveling:
• Remember to remain alert and watchful, especially in crowds. Many travelers have invested in small, flat bags that hang from neck cords to store money, credit cards, passports, and other important identification. Avoid carrying wallets in a rear pocket that could be easily “picked.”
• At hotels, avoid hanging the “housekeeping” sign on your doorknob. That alerts the observer to your absence from the room.
• Avoid discussing your travel plans where strangers may overhear you.
• If you are the victim of a theft or any other crime, contact the local law enforcement agency and file a report immediately. Provide contact information so they may keep you updated on any developments in your case. • Remember to lock doors and windows securely. Always lock the doors in your vehicle.
As your sheriff, it is my hope that if you travel during the warm weather season that you will remain safe. I would encourage anyone traveling to take advantage of our extra patrol for your home or business while you are away. Towns County has enjoyed a decrease in crime over the last 8+ years, with burglaries down over 65%.
The biggest part of that success is the community’s involvement in initiatives such as our Extra Patrol and Neighborhood Watch programs. To take advantage of our Extra Patrol service, simply contact the Towns County Sheriff’s Office at 706-896-4444 and ask to be placed on extra patrol while you are away. We will keep an eye on your home and let you know if anything is amiss, hopefully adding peace of mind to your time away.