The Walker County Sheriff's Office is opening a satellite office in September inside Ridgeland Business Complex at the intersection of Happy Valley and Wilson roads.
Walker County Sheriff Steve Wilson said crimes continue to occur along Wilson Road, near the intersection picked for the new office.
"Per square mile there's more people on the northern end [of the county]," said Wilson. "The county has 68,000 people and 65 percent live from Chickamauga north to the state line. That results in more crime because there's more people."
The department is in the middle of renovating the 800 square feet of office space, which property owner Chris Carlton, of Carlton Properties, is allowing the department to use free of charge, Wilson said.
"It's mostly cosmetic and minor carpentry work and putting a security system in," said Wilson. "We hope to have it open in the next three weeks. Initially, it will not be a staffed office. We can use it as a command post for serious incidents in the north end of the county."
Wilson said deputies will be able to conduct interviews with suspects and victims and meet people reporting crimes at the satellite office, so that citizens don't have to drive all the way to LaFayette.
"A future plan will be to have a part-time clerical employee to assist with other reports and documents they may need on the north end," he said. "The commissioner [Bebe Heiskell] and I have been in discussion about having a satellite office since 2008. We discussed having a [vehicle] tag office and a sheriff's office combined in the Fairview community. At Wilson Road Neighborhood Group meetings, the conversation about a satellite office was brought up again and I began looking for a location."
The group was formed earlier this year, after a burglar broke into a home at Mountain View Estates and David Roden, who owns the manufactured-home community, shot off an email to Wilson saying those in the community felt unsafe. Wilson, as well as Deputy Bruce Coker, Walker County Schools Superintendent Damon Raines, Family Connection Coordinator Susan Wells and Chamber of Commerce President Lacey Wilson, agreed to join a coalition with area residents.
The first meeting on March 1 at Mission Glen Baptist Church drew 120 people. Cars lined the road leading to the full parking lot. Within a week, Roden said, county employees tore down a couple of the buildings that members of the group had complained about, buildings he'd been complaining about since early last year.
Members of the group, now called the Wilson Road Neighborhood Group, have shared ambitious visions, hoping for everything from more job opportunities to better diets for low-income children. But, said Roden, who has become the spokesperson for the group, the meetings have shown two main concerns: crime and codes enforcement.
The group has already sparked changes along Wilson Road. Walker County employees have torn down dilapidated buildings, trained a neighborhood watch group and the new sheriff's satellite office promises more progress.
In the hopes of heralding constructive change when it comes to crime and public safety, local teacher Scott Harden, a member of the group, recently coordinated with Walker County Roads Superintendent Jeff Long to get a pair of tennis shoes removed from some power lines in the northern end of the county.
"As many of us have heard, this is a gang symbol of marking territory and/or 'drugs sold here' sign," Roden said. "The businesses, churches and residents of the Wilson Road area want to thank Walker County Roads Superintendent Jeff Long and the county roads department for bringing a bucket truck to Wilson Road and Union Avenue and cutting down the tennis shoes that have been hanging there for the last year or so."
Harden is now addressing the dangerous intersection of Glentana and Wilson roads where a man was killed a few months back. Wilson said he is working toward an improvement so that people do not have to pull out into the intersection before being able to see if a car's coming.
Roden said he also wants to thank the city of Rossville for boarding up another window that was broken in front of the new Hardee's. Members of the Wilson Road Neighborhood Group sent emails asking for something to be done, he said, and the city listened.
With the new satellite office set to open, the group is now turning to its second concern: codes enforcement.
The group's next meeting is Aug. 25 at Union Avenue Baptist at 6:30 p.m.
"At the August 25th meeting, Sheriff Wilson and Deputy Bruce Coker will announce and give us more information on the new North End Sheriff's Office coming to Wilson and Happy Valley Road," said Roden. "This was asked for by the neighborhood in the first three meetings that started on March 1 at Mission Glen Baptist Church, and now six months later it is becoming a reality. This addresses the group's No. 1 concern: crime.
"The second area of concern of the group is the lack of codes enforcement, and that will be addressed at this meeting on August 25th."
To connect with the group online, visit wilsonroadgroup.org.
Staff writer Tyler Jett contributed to this story.