TRENTON, Ga. - Newly elected Dade County Sheriff Ray Cross wants to branch out in the county by getting officers to check on the elderly and curb a spree of burglaries.
Cross, who defeated former Sheriff Patrick Cannon, ran on the platform to increase officers' visibility on the roads to fight property crimes and drug abuse among teenagers.
While Cross hasn't added any officers to the patrol force, he's ordered officers to travel more frequently into the populated part of the community and stay within the neighborhoods. He's also placed a sergeant and two K-9 officers on Interstate 59 in hopes of cutting down on drug trafficking that filters through the county that borders Alabama and Tennessee.
Professionally, Cross has changed the way the officers dress, changing from officers wearing collared shirts to the standard full police uniform including ties and hats.
"I want to get professionalism back in the office," he said.
Chief Deputy Nash Phillips, whom Cross promoted after he took office, said he is pleased with the changes and has seen improvements in the last three weeks. He said he is thankful to have a sheriff with a tough stance on theft crimes.
"You can never get rid of it all," Phillips said. "But if somebody does it here, we want them to know to be in fear."
One of two other programs Cross said he will start is Project Care, which will be available to any elderly people who want to have regular check-ins or visits during emergencies. The program will be recruiting volunteers, Cross said.
The sheriff's office also is starting an Explorers program for teenagers that allows them to learn how to be an officer and helps them become interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement. Teens receive training, ride with officers and wear uniforms.
"It helps keep them out of trouble and gives them something to do," he said.