Working to build stronger relationships with the community, the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office held a town hall Tuesday night, offering up the latest information and statistics for the Hickory Flat precinct.

Despite having been transferred over to the Oak Grove precinct to serve as precinct commander there just over a week ago, Lt. Todd Shinall spoke to the audience assembled at Grow Church in Hickory Flat about the precinct he was recently the commander of.

“This is an opportunity to put faces with the badges,” he said.

Although the Hickory Flat precinct is geographically only the third largest precinct in the county, Shinall said it is essentially tied with the Oak Grove precinct as the busiest. In 2018, he said deputies in the precinct responded to 27,326 calls, 924 vehicular accidents, conducted 6,263 traffic stops, had 70 DUI incidents and made 586 arrests.

At the same time, he said the overall incident numbers in the area have been trending downward, as the number of robberies, residential burglaries and motor vehicle thefts in the precinct dropped from 2017 to 2018.

While the Hickory Flat deputies spend much of their time answering calls and responding to incidents, Shinall said they also work to be involved in the community in positive ways as well. These include visiting with community groups and schools and assisting with toy drives around Christmas, among many other things. Additional efforts to build positive relationships come through giving residents an in-depth education about the sheriff’s office in the citizen’s academy, which Shinall said currently has a fairly extensive waiting list for.

Shinall offered up information on ways the residents could stay safe and make themselves a harder target for crime. This included stressing how important it is to lock one’s doors and keep one’s valuables in the car hidden. When going away for a relatively long period of time, he said residents can call the precinct office and request an extra patrol around their house to ensure things are as they should be. Shinall encouraged residents to consider being a part of neighborhood watch groups and getting to know their neighbors, which would make it easier to know what belongs and what doesn’t.

“The more eyes, the better,” he said. “Look out for each other. Be a part of your community.”

Once Shinall’s presentation was completed, he fielded a handful of questions and comments from the audience. One citizen asked if the sheriff’s office had a downloadable app that would alert the public about emergency situations. Shinall and CSO Public Information Officer Capt. Jay Baker said that the CodeRED system the sheriff’s office operates for which residents can sign up for and receive alerts covers much of this.

In response to a question of how big of an issue human trafficking is in the county, Shinall and other officers said it is an issue, although the trafficking seen in Cherokee County is more along the lines of employment exploitation rather than sex trafficking.

A couple of residents mentioned an issue with speeders, including one who races up and down East Cherokee Drive several times a day. Along with the questions and other comments, several residents wanted to commend the sheriff’s office and the Cherokee Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad for all their hard work, including the recent bust of fentanyl-laced heroin.

Along with Shinall, Sheriff Frank Reynolds offered up a few remarks of his own, while also taking a moment to introduce a number of the deputies and other officers in attendance at the start of the meeting.

“I work for you,” Reynolds reminded the crowd. “It behooves me to listen to your needs and concerns. This is one way we can do this.”

Toward the end of the meeting, after Shinall touched on the fact that the sheriff’s office is hiring and looking for new recruits, deputy chief Ken Ball encouraged all of the citizens in attendance to try and recruit one person they knew to consider applying for some of these openings.

“The best way to change the agenda is to hire the best,” Ball said.

After the town hall meeting closed, a handful of citizens stayed around and met one-on-one with some of the deputies, engaging with the officers on a more personal level. Shinall said he hoped everyone who attended left with a better sense of what the sheriff’s office does, how the residents can help the sheriff’s office in keeping their neighborhoods safer and ways they can keep the lines of communication open with the sheriff’s office to help the deputies do their jobs that much better.

“We had a good turnout and good interaction with the crowd tonight,” Shinall said. “Everything was positive.”

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