ALBANY -- It wasn't too long ago that Albany was called the "Murder Capital" of the country, said law enforcement officials.
That has changed and it is because of community involvement and an aggressive law enforcement policy, said Lt. James Williams of the Albany Police Department's burglary unit.
"The partnership with the community is a prime factor in the crime rate going down," Williams said at the noon monthly meeting of the Gang Task Force in the Government Center downtown on Pine Avenue.
"We have been able to increase the rate of burglary arrests and return property to victims. The neighborhood watch (program) is a top priority. If you don't have one, get one."
Officials at the meeting said that because the Dougherty County School System has given students the entire week off next week as a budgetary measure and to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, law enforcement will be doubly vigilant in the city and the county.
As an example of the vigilance and aggressive approach to law enforcement of his department Albany police Deputy Chief Nathaniel Clark described the recent "Zero Tolerance" operations.
In Zero Tolerance operations, police from many local law enforcement agencies such as the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office, the Gang Unit, the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit, probation and code enforcement join the Albany police to sweep into a statistically pinpointed high-crime area.
According to Clark, the first operation resulted in 10 arrests, the second in 20 and the third in 18.
"It takes criminals off the streets so they cannot be committing crimes," Clark said.
Arrests range from probation violations and drunken driving to drug trafficking.
"We attack the criminal from all angles," he explained
This was the last task force meeting for Deputy Chief Wilma Griffin.
After more than 35 years as a police officer, she is retiring in December.
"It is a sad day to see her leave the force," said Jon Howard, the Albany city commissioner who hosts the gang task Force meetings. "It is the end of an era."
Howard's last Town hall meeting of the year in Ward I will be at 10 a.m. Saturday. It will feature police Chief John Proctor as speaker.
"Primarily, it will be a roundup of crime in general and specifically East Albany," Proctor said. "I'll sum up what we have done and what we plan to do."
Everyone is invited to attend the Town Hall in the East Albany Community center at 1721 E. Oglethorpe Blvd.