FORT VALLEY -- Several neighbors gathered inside an Everett Square home late one afternoon last week for a "front porch roll call," a new initiative of the Fort Valley police department.
The program takes a daily officer roll call normally held at the police station and moves it to a neighborhood residence. At roll calls, officers pass on valuable information to each other, including an overview of major calls and any crime patterns that may be emerging.
"It's an opportunity for everybody really to just be transparent and kind of just get an understanding of what's going on," Fort Valley Public Safety Director Lawrence Spurgeon told those assembled. "A lot of stuff about police work comes from television and the movies. You watch a movie, and 20 people get shot and there's five car chases. I have been in law enforcement 20 years, and I've probably been in five car chases the whole time," he said.
Police Lt. Willie Marshall, who gave the roll report, updated residents on major calls of the day. Among them was a report of an accidental discharge of a firearm the previous afternoon at a Brooks Boulevard apartment where two minors were home alone and handling a weapon.
No one was hurt, but a bullet went through not only the walls of the bedroom the two were in but also through a neighboring apartment and into the next apartment, Marshall said.
Another call was a traffic accident that sent one person to the hospital with injuries that weren't thought to be life threatening. The roll call also highlighted the routine, such as escorting a Fort Valley Utilities Commission employee to deposit cash at a bank, and the mundane.
"No vehicle problems that I know of," Marshall reported. "Vehicle 8 was brought back from public works from its oil change."
Connie Rainey, a resident, asked about the most common types of crimes handled by police. Spurgeon identified residential burglaries as the top problem in the city.
He said the agency's priorities are residential burglaries, commercial armed robberies, personal armed robberies and commercial burglaries.
Rainey asked police what they do to suppress crimes. One of the main ways to combat residential burglaries, Spurgeon said, is to talk to residents about how to make their homes tough targets.
"Suppression is not just what the police department does," Spurgeon said. "It's about the citizens being proactive as well.
"And a lot of times people will say, 'Well, you know, I saw a blue truck behind the house, but I though they (were) getting the house worked on or something.' Human nature is not to accuse people," he said. "It's not accusatory if you just send us over there because you see something suspicious. Let us worry about how they feel about being asked the question."
Rainey also asked about how police were handling problems with illegal drugs. Spurgeon said the department aggressively goes after high-end traffickers. He reminded residents of a multi-county drug bust in September in which authorities, including Fort Valley police, arrested six people, seized $500,000 worth of marijuana and shut down marijuana grow houses in Houston, Crawford, Wilcox and Decatur counties.
Most commonly, Fort Valley police see prescription drug abuse and recreational use of cocaine, he said.
"A lot of that stuff doesn't come from here," Spurgeon said. "You've got pill mills and stuff in other places and people transporting them back and forth. So it's a constant battle."
Police also got a pat on the back from those attending, and Rich and Beckie Adamson, who hosted the event in their home, received two Fort Valley police patches that were used by the department before the police and fire departments were merged under public safety.
"It's a great idea to get the police department to come to your house ... meet the neighbors," Rich Adamson said. "We get to see the police face to face. They see us face to face."
Larry Dobbs, a friend of the Adamsons who also attended, said he thought he got some good information. He said he was pleased that Spurgeon joined the officers and appreciated the questions that were answered.
"The main thing is we have to show our police force that we're behind them just as much as they are behind us," Dobbs said.
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559, or find her on Twitter@becpurser.