Sheriff Steve Sikes and his staff are ready to get the bad guys off the streets.
On Wednesday evening, Sikes and his staff met with about 50 Lake George residents to answer questions about community concerns at the Lake George Property Owners Association club house in Midway.
"I’d like to thank the law enforcement of Liberty County for being here tonight to be able to answer some of our questions that we have about the drugs, the speeders, anything that you guys want to ask. That’s what these gentlemen are here for tonight," property owner’s association president Jane Pope told the audience. "Remember, these guys are here for us, for this community and every community here in Liberty County. They’re here trying to get focused on what needs to be done in our neighborhoods to get our neighborhoods back safe so we can have a happy community."
Before starting the question-and-answer session, Sikes told the audience that he was there to get questions and to come up with some solutions to the problems residents face on a regular basis, including drug dealers, speeders and thieves.
About a dozen residents stood up and asked Sikes, Chief Deputy Keith Moran, Multi Agency Crack Enforcement (MACE) Task Force representative Cpt. Chris Reid and Cpt. David Edwards about particular issues of concern, including houses and roads that may be linked to drug peddling.
Moran told the group that the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office has 160 full-time employees throughout the department that help run the system, but that isn’t enough to get criminals off the streets and keep Lake George and the surrounding areas safe.
Sikes agreed that it takes a focused community to curb crime and dangerous issues.
"Without information, you cannot run a sheriff’s department. This job — our jobs right here — depend on the citizens of the county. It depends on meetings just like this, plus getting feedback from you," Sikes said. "We want to prevent crime, but it’s going to take feedback from each and every one of you."
Ninety percent of calls are non-violent, and the department averages about 36,000 calls a year, Moran said. Many of the calls coming from Lake George residents specifically are domestic-related or about people loitering — namely teenagers.
Sikes’ staff asked that residents take note of suspicious activity and, when possible, get details such as license plate numbers to report to deputies. Residents also were encouraged to report calls, even anonymously, if they witness a crime.
Moran advised residents to photograph all jewelry, including heirlooms, and write a list of descriptions for each belonging to make it easier to identify in case of theft. The chief deputy said about half of his own possessions are documented in the same fashion to protect his family’s property.
"We don’t want to just react to crime; we want to prevent crime," Sikes said.
A new Liberty County Sheriff’s website also is expected to be unveiled shortly and will contain an informational blog with crime updates that will be weekly or monthly, the sheriff said.
After the meeting, staff members spoke with residents about additional concerns and said they thought the forum was a success.
"It went extremely well," Sikes said. He added that he hopes to do more monthly community meetings. "I’m looking forward to more of these."