The Oak Grove precinct of the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office met with members of the public last week at a special town hall event, providing attendees with with information about the area and listening to concerns from residents.

A crowd filled the auditorium of Faith Family Church on Bells Ferry Road to hear what Capt. Mark Anderson, who served as precinct commander until June before transferring to the CSO’s special operations division, had to say about the area, including some of the latest statistics gathered by the sheriff’s office.

Anderson began by letting everyone in attendance know that they are in good hands with his successor, Lt. Todd Shinall, who came over from the Hickory Flat precinct.

Anderson described Oak Grove as a unique precinct, being the smallest of the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office’s five precincts in terms of geographic area yet perhaps its most populated. Although more densely populated areas usually tend to draw in a greater amount of crime than more sparsely populated spots, Anderson said the Oak Grove precinct does see its fair share of action, but statistically, it is still a safe and secure environment.

In 2018, Anderson said the precinct handled 26,903 calls for service, conducted 4,856 traffic stops and made 1,004 arrests. At the same time, there were only 10 prowler calls, 67 missing persons, 27 death investigations and three armed robberies in the precinct. Comparing 2017 and 2018 numbers, the number of aggravated assault crimes went up slightly, as did the number of rape and sex crimes, but the numbers for many other forms of criminal activity decreased. Anderson attributed this overall trend to things like proactive efforts made in the community by the sheriff’s office, effective data analysis and strong partnerships with members of the community.

Anderson reminded the audience many of the ways they can make themselves a harder target for criminals and keep themselves and their communities as safe as possible. These included locking doors and windows, not keeping valuable items in a vehicle, knowing what is normal in the neighborhood and reporting suspicious activity.

“We can’t be effective without you,” Anderson said. “Get involved, get to know your neighbors and your deputies, and don’t be a soft target. If you see something, say something.”

Anderson fielded a number of questions from the audience, including what the sheriff’s office is doing to enforce the hands-free cell phone law, why there are times when multiple cars respond to an incident and what local residents can do to help, among other things.

“We have several details and initiatives in the county,” Anderson said of hands-free enforcement. “We combat it on a day-to-day basis. We take it seriously.”

When on the scene of an incident, Anderson said there are sometimes multiple units at the site because what starts as a simple investigation may blossom into something much larger.

Sheriff Frank Reynolds expanded on this, explaining that the sheriff’s office has a similar stance to how the county fire department reacts to incidents, sending out multiple units and then scaling back as needed.

Responding to the question of what citizens can do to help, Anderson said, “Keep doing what you’re doing.”

Along with Anderson’s presentation and the questions from local citizens, a few other officials shared some remarks during the meeting. After welcoming everyone to the church, Faith Family Church Lead Pastor Donald Saglimbene commended the sheriff’s office for their determination and hard work to catch those responsible for the recent vandalism case at the church. Corey Ragsdale of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners also thanked the sheriff’s office for what they do to keep people safe. Chief Deputy Ken Ball encouraged everyone to find someone they knew who would be a good fit for the agency and recruit them to join the sheriff’s office. Reynolds reminded attendees that town hall meetings like these are ways the sheriff’s office can continue to effectively build relationships and trust with the community.

“We can’t do our job effectively if we don’t have that trust,” Reynolds said. “We want you to walk away tonight knowing that we are here for you.”

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