HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Members of five Towns County veteran organizations recently rallied behind supporting local
law enforcement. Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith was approached by a member of the VFW who expressed a desire to help the city police department.
“We have been in need of an additional Taser, but have had to put funds toward other projects,” Chief Smith explained. “For the past two years, we have been sharing Tasers between officers, which leaves some of us without the option of an effective midrange less-lethal weapon.”
Tasers are a brand of conducted electrical weapon that uses an electric current to disrupt voluntary control of muscles, causing temporary neuromuscular incapacitation. The use of conducted electrical weapons by law enforcement agencies has resulted in fewer injuries for both the officers and suspects. “Without the option of a Taser, an officer may be required to use hands-on physical force or an impact weapon like an expandable baton,” Chief Smith said. “These force-options can result in serious injuries to the suspect and officer. We are incredibly
grateful for the support and the donation made by our veteran organizations.”
“We feel a Taser is more effective and safer in apprehending a criminal,” said Mel Halfon, VFW Post 7807 Commander. “We expect a safe community where we can go about our daily activities in an environment without fear, risk of harm, or injury. Our veterans’ family is happy to support the Hiawassee Police Department and provide funding to purchase a Taser.”
Donations for the Taser were made by VFW Post 7807, VFW Auxiliary, The American Legion Post 23, The American Legion Auxiliary, and Sons of the American Legion.
“Our veterans are such an integral part of our community,” Mayor Liz Ordiales said. “We thank them for their service then, now, and always.”
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Two additional drug dealers were recently taken off the streets of Hiawassee. On June 30, Richard Deaton of Flowery Branch, GA was stopped by the Hiawassee Police Department for a vehicle equipment violation. A probable cause search of Deaton revealed 18 grams of methamphetamine and 4 grams of marijuana. Deaton was arrested and charged with: Turn Signal Requirements, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Methamphetamine, and Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute.
On Sunday, July 28, Hiawassee Police Department stopped a vehicle for a violation of Georgia’s hands-free law. The driver was arrested for driving with a suspended driver’s license. An inventory of the vehicle revealed 98 grams of methamphetamine and 28 grams of marijuana. Joseph Llorens of Cleveland, GA was charged with: Driver to Exercise Due Care, Driving While License Suspended, Possession and Use of Drug Related Objects, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Distribute, Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of Methamphetamine with Intent to Distribute, and Trafficking Methamphetamine.
“While it is unfortunate that people are bringing these drugs into our community, our officers are doing a fantastic job in detecting and arresting those who are responsible,” Chief Paul Smith stated. “Arresting the drug dealers is a very important step in combating the drug problem. I’m proud of the work we’re doing in Hiawassee.”
The discovery of 98 grams of methamphetamine is one of the largest drug seizures by the Hiawassee Police Department, Smith said.
All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – As part of continuing education and training in the administration of law enforcement, Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith recently attended the 2019 Annual Summer Training conference sponsored by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police. Heads of law enforcement agencies from throughout the state participated in the four-day conference. The Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police is responsible for the delivery of training to the chiefs of Georgia’s police departments and law enforcement agencies. Smith described the annual conference to FetchYourNews as “enlightening.”
The Summer Training Conference was held at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center July 21 through July 24. This year’s conference covered a variety of topics such as: “Advancing Officer Health & Wellness”, “Leadership Strategies for the 21st Century Police Administrator”, “Las Vegas Route 91 Harvest Festival 1 October Debrief”, “DDS Card Security for Law Enforcement”, “Next Generation of Identification (NGI) Overview”, “The Impact of Legalized Marijuana and Law Enforcement Leadership in Traffic Safety”, and “Reset The Clock: Replace Liability With Credibility – Practical Employee Relations For Leaders in Law Enforcement.”
Chief Smith was among more than 550 heads of law enforcement agencies attending the 51st Annual Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police Summer Training Conference. Chief Wesley Walker of Lyons Police Department, President of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, stated, “In this new era of law enforcement, Chiefs are constantly finding new ways to manage their departments. From the type of officer we are hiring today, to the concerns of the public we serve, to the way we police has changed ever so drastically. This change has brought about new standards that are required of law enforcement. The GACP has done an excellent job in keeping up with the times and providing the necessary training and direction for the Police Chiefs of this state.
“Our Summer training conference leads the country in the caliber of instructors and material delivered to the attendees. Each one of us takes away something new and useful to complement our management styles as we return to our respective departments. The networking and knowledge of the approximately 550 attendees in those classrooms is unprecedented. The GACP continues to strive to provide the best training possible to the members of the association and be the standard for other Chief’s Associations across the country.”
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith continues to warn the community of circulating telephone scams that could drain victims’ bank accounts. Scammers often target potential victims’ social media accounts prior to attempt to deceive, Smith cautioned, collecting information that could lead citizens to believe the call is, in fact, legitimate.
“One of the common scams that I’ve seen is called a ‘grandkids’ scam,’ Smith explained. “The person calls an area where there’s lots of retired people, Towns County, and one of the scripts they use goes something like, ‘Hey Grandma, I don’t have a lot of time to talk, but I just got arrested for a DUI. An attorney says he can get me out of jail, but I need you to wire him some money’…These people call from spoofed phone numbers. I’ve talked about that before. They can put in whatever phone number they want to show up on your caller ID…
“Another common scam is a tech support scam. I’ve had several calls in Hiawassee for that, where someone calls claiming they’re from Microsoft or Apple, and they say that they discovered a virus on the computer and need to remove it for them for a small fee, of course. Once they get access to the computer to remove the virus, they’ve got everything. They’ve got full access to the computer, and then they install a virus so that it covers their tracks.”
Chief Smith advised against falling prey to lottery scams, a ploy where a con artist claims the lottery “winner” simply needs to pay applicable taxes or import fees prior to receiving a large sum of money.
Lastly, the chief warned of scams involving law enforcement impersonation, when a caller claims to have an arrest warrant for missed jury duty or an unpaid traffic ticket. “If the police department or sheriff’s office has a warrant for you, they aren’t going to call you. They’re just going to show up and serve the warrant,” Smith said.
Feature Image: Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith – Spring, 2019
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Chamber of Commerce hosted an annual “Eggs and Issues” breakfast, Wednesday, May 29, at Daniel’s Steakhouse in Hiawassee. A crowd of approximately 50 signed up to dine, buffet style, while listening to public leaders address community matters. Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby, Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton, and Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith were invited to meet with the citizens.
Commissioner Bradshaw opened the event by sharing that the county budget is in good health, with a $3.1 million reserve fixed in place. Due to past, excessive rainfall, construction efforts were needed in an area that caused a storage building to buckle at Foster Park in Young Hsrris, the commissioner reported, although taxpayers’ funds were minimal due to a generous contractor who offered assistance to lower costs. An insurance check in the amount of $23,000 was issued in response to the damage of the building. Bradshaw shared that sales taxes have increased by $28,000 from this time last year, a testimony to the booming business of local tourism. The commission said that he believes the city governments are in line with the county’s goals. “We don’t want to lose small town values, and small town feel,” Bradshaw stressed.
Next to speak was Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales who, in part, addressed the city’s strategic plan, calling it a “driving force.” Ordiales said that the next project on the list is to make Lloyd’s Landing, where the boat ramp was located prior to Mayors’ Park, a “kid-friendly, fun, family area.” The mayor filled the diners in on the Friday movies and Saturday evening music summer series on Hiawassee Town Square, announcing that 250 music lovers attended opening night, Memorial Day weekend. “We all came here because we wanted a small town…” Mayor Ordiales reminded. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have every, single storefront filled? That’s my target.”
Young Harris Mayor Andrea Gibby promoted the city’s North Georgia Highlands Seafood Festival, scheduled for this weekend. Gibby addressed the anticipated road construction which will soon begin in western Towns County. “The construction process will be awful, but in the end I think it’s going to be very good for us,” the mayor assured. Gibby said that the citizens of Young Harris are in agreement as to how the development of the city unfolds, saying the residents strive for a “community and sense of belonging,” adding that “eveyone seems to want a village.”
Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton spoke on the security at the courthouse, detention center procedures, and the recently completed mass “Operation Trial Run” drug round-ups, which landed 53 arrests and over $300,000 in monetary and property seizures. The sheriff noted the local C.H.A.M.P.S. program, the importance of accountabilty in reference to drug court, and praised the volunteer efforts of the Citizen Law Enforcement Academy (CLEA) graduates. Clinton divulged that the inmates currently housed at the Towns County Detention Center are all repeat offenders. “I think we need less laws, and put the teeth back in the laws.” Sheriff Clinton said, referring to himself as “compassionate” and “a results, goal-orientated, type person.”
“We haven’t had the best history of sheriff’s in the past,” Clinton said, calling the statement an “historical fact.” The county’s chief officer informed that he does not see his detractors in attendance at community events, such as the sheriff’s office fundraisers, while adding, “I don’t think any of us are claiming to be perfect. I’m certainly not.” Sheriff Clinton concluded with praise for the department’s deputies and their retention record. “We haven’t had a single patrol officer in over two years go anywhere.”
Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith wrapped up the forum, relaying that he is one of five officers on the city department. “I still work the roads. I still answer calls,”Smith said, noting that having a recently-added fifth officer allows time to tend to administrative duties. Smith stressed the importance of justice and service to the community, and expressed gratitude for two patrol vehicles which were donated by the local Lions Club and a Florida poice division. The chief touched on the annual “Shop with a Hero” program which provides holiday gifts for financially challenged children in Towns County.
In attendance was Towns County Fire Chief Harold Copeland who warned of wildfire dangers, and asked the community to kindly pull to the shoulder of the roadway when emergency vehicles approach, with lights flashing and sirens sounding. Copeland additionally serves as the county coroner, and mentioned the importance of carrying identification with information on next of kin, along with predetermining a preference of funeral homes.
Overall, the theme of the event was overwhelming positive from the public officials involved, and in terms of attendance, the Towns County Chamber of Commerce deemed the breakfast discussion a success.
Feature Image: Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, speaking to the citizens of Towns County
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith put the city department’s new utility task vehicle (UTV) to good use May 21 by joining in the efforts to keep Hiawassee pristine. The litter shown in the feature image was collected by Chief Smith along a one-mile stretch on South Main Street on Tuesday. Smith, a humble, community-minded public servant, can often be found bettering the city in ways beyond law enforcement.
“We need your help to keep our town beautiful and trash free,” the police chief asked citizens. “Don’t leave loose trash in the bed of trucks that can fly out. Keep a grocery bag in your vehicle as a trash can that you can easily throw out at home when it is full.”
Hiawassee Police Department’s UTV was purchased with funds from the agency’s calendar sales, Smith told FYN. Businesses purchase advertising space, creating additional revenue for the five officer division. The task vehicle will be utilized for patrol duties during events.
Employees of the City of Hiawassee regularly engage in litter pick-up around the town, per request of Hiawassee Mayor Liz Ordiales, although Smith said his department’s clean-up effort was self-initiated.
Chief Smith explained the illegality of littering:
“During the process of cleaning our streets, if we locate trash that has a name on it, we can charge the owner for the litter,” Chief Smith said. “OCGA § 16-7-44(b) states: ‘…whenever any litter which is dumped, deposited, thrown, or left on public or private property in violation of Code Section 16-7-43 is discovered to contain any article or articles, including but not limited to letters, bills, publications, or other writings which display the name of a person thereon in such a manner as to indicate that the article belongs or belonged to such person, the trier of fact may in its discretion and in consideration of the totality of the circumstances infer that such person has violated this part.’ Most people do not throw trash out the window when there’s a patrol car behind them, so it is often difficult for a law enforcement officer to catch someone in the act of littering. When we do charge someone with littering, the judge has the ability to sentence the person to clean one mile of the roadway on which they littered (§ 16-7-43(b)(2)(A)). By serving our community and voluntarily picking up trash, the police department is able to charge the offenders who then have to clean up after themselves and others.”
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Advanced Roadside Impairment Detection Enforcement (ARIDE) training was cancelled this week due to a lack of law enforcement officers who enrolled in the two-day course, scheduled to take place in downtown Hiawassee. A total of 13 participants from surrounding areas, including four Hiawassee Police Department officers, planned to take part in the drug detection training. The Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) required a minimum of 15 enrolled officers, however, to hold the course.
According to information received from GPSTC, no Towns County Sheriff’s Office deputies signed up for the class.
In late March, Hiawassee Police Department announced their intention to host the training, May 23 – 24, held at Hiawassee City Hall. The 16-hour course was designed to enhance law enforcement officers’ ability to recognize psychophysical and clinical indicators of impairment consistent with a subject who is under the influence of drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol, while taking appropriate action.
“A training officer with the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth, GA contacted Sgt. Travis Gibson with the Clayton Police Department, seeking a location in North Georgia to host the class” Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith told FYN in March. “Sgt. Gibson, a part time officer with Hiawassee Police Department, requested the use of the Training Room at the Hiawassee City Hall for the two day course. The class is open to all law enforcement officers who wish to attend. Sgt. Gibson, a Drug Recognition Expert, will be one of the two instructors.”
The course was intended to build upon skills learned in Standard Field Sobriety Testing training in which law enforcement officers would have focused on identifying and assessing motorists suspected of driving under the influence, Smith explained. The purpose was to reduce the amount of impaired drivers, and in turn, lessen impaired driving collisions.
The two-day ARIDE course was free of charge for qualified law enforcement officers. Prior DUI – Standard Field Sobriety Testing training was required.
HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Cherish Serene Stewart, 46, of Hiawassee, was arrested and charged with five counts of forgery in the first degree, and five counts of theft by taking in excess of $1,500.
According to the arrest report obtained from Hiawassee Police Department, the date of the alleged offense was documented as occuring Dec. 21, 2018. The complainant was listed as United Community Bank. A total amount of $5,900 was recorded as allegedly stolen from United Community Bank by Stewart, via the report. A detective with Hiawassee Police Department met with the bank president March 29, upon consultation with an Enotah Judicial Circuit Assistant District Attorney, in order to acquire additional information on the investigation.
According to Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith, Enotah Judicial Circuit may claim an “open investigation/pending prosecution” case which would prevent additional details from being released at this time. FYN will update future information should it become available.
Stewart is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.