LEESBURG, Ga. — Up-to-the-month crime statistics released by Lee County Sheriff Reggie Rachals’ office Friday offer what Rachals says is proof that his department is having a significant impact on crime in the county.
“The number of calls we’ve taken since I’ve been in office have gone up significantly each year,” Rachals said. “And while not all of those calls are to report crimes, I think it reflects, first, a growing county, and, second, the trust that the citizens of the county have in this office.
“Of course, as we’ve responded to more calls, it highlights the fact that our personnel is stretched to the limit in all areas: jail, dispatch, road deputies. To get our manpower to recommended standards, we’d need 17 more deputies. We know that’s not feasible given our budget limitations, so everyone multitasks. We wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the dedicated staff we have in place.”
Rachals is up for re-election Tuesday and faces former Lee County sheriff’s deputy David Cheshire in Tuesday’s Republican primary.
Rachals said his office had a “pretty good” 35.83 percent overall clearance rate on 3,466 incidents and had recorded 5,767 arrests on 11,957 counts. Among the most common incidents in the county are entering autos, burglaries/thefts and drug cases.
LSO’s Narcotics Division has made 133 felony and 57 misdemeanor arrests on drug-related charges that resulted in the seizure of $125,217 in cash and $55,605 in property, including 14 vehicles. Top seizures by Narcotics included 107.9 pounds of marijuana and more than 1,600 prescription pills.
Rachals said relationships he and his department have worked hard to sometimes re-establish are vital to the success rate of LSO.
“Our job starts with the support of the community,” the sheriff said. “But these relationships we’ve worked hard to establish — and re-establish — with area, state and national law enforcement agencies are vital to what we’re doing. The connections we make help us get information, and we’re also able to utilize other agencies’ manpower and equipment when we work on joint operations.
“Those relationships are very important, and we reciprocate by working with the other agencies as well.”
Rachals points to recent cases his department worked with the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit, the Governor’s Office Drug Task Force, and city and county law enforcement agencies in Albany and Dougherty and Sumter counties as examples of successful joint operations.
And there was the high-profile, long-term operation conducted at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany that included cooperation among NCIS, the Marine base’s Criminal Investigation Division, the Dougherty County District Attorney’s office, the DEA, ADDU, the GBI and LSO.
“Those (state and federal) agencies recognize members of our department as a trustworthy team,” Lt. Col. Chris Owens, LSO’s chief investigator, said. “It was a very sensitive case, and all the members of the different agencies meshed very well. Everyone had special skills, and everyone had input. No one tried to take it over; there was a level of trust among everyone involved.”
Rachals said the animosity among different agencies that make up plot points on TV and in movies is not apparent when LSO works with other agencies.
“No one comes in and tries to take things over,” he said. “There is a mutual respect, a mutual trust, and we work together for a common cause.”
Rachals also said his department’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit, named by the GBI as the best new unit in the state, had arrested 18 would-be predators.
“We’ve seen things in these investigations that shock us,” Owens said. “It’s amazing to us the things young kids are doing on their computers that parents don’t know about.”
Rachals said organization is critical to the running of the sheriff’s office, and that’s where his management skills are most necessary.