"Probably the most noticeable thing is we've changed our uniforms," Chief Robert Jones said. "We used to have a light blue top and we went to a traditional all dark police uniform."
As Adairsville moves forward with technological advances in today's fast-paced world, officers have transitioned from the old form of hand writing reports and then transferring them into a computer database to eliminating that step and enter reports straight into the computer for an updated report management system recently implemented.
"My motto here is, 'Work smarter, not harder,'" Jones said. "Don't add steps to the equation, just take some out so we can get out there and do what we're supposed to do."
Along with the change in report input, case investigations have been improved as well.
"We've improved the way the cases are worked so not only do the officers have more confidence going to court but the judges and district attorney have more confidence in prosecuting our cases," Jones said. "At the end of the day we're still law enforcement officers and what we do is lock the bad guy up. So we want to make those good cases when we do it. We don't want to have them dismissed, or get a bad reputation on our cases."
This improved system is particularly helpful as the northern Bartow town has seen a dramatic increase in call volume over the past six months.
"We went from averaging 700 case numbers to over 1,000 in a month," Jones said. "But what that's equated into, our case number has gone up, but our crime is down."
Jones said that there is one important tactic his department began to involve community members. This effort is the reason for an increase in calls and a decrease in the crime rate.
"We've implemented Community Oriented Policing," Jones said. "This isn't a 'hug-a-thug' program. Community Oriented Policing is designed to teach the citizens how to protect themselves against crime. It's a form of crime prevention -- to recognize crime before it occurs.
"You can lock up everybody that you catch, but it's the people you don't catch [that cause more crime]. The way you do that is by educating your citizens. If a strange car comes through your neighborhood and stops, looks around, comes and knocks on the door, looks in the windows and walks away, that's suspicious. That's not something a normal person does.
"When you see somebody that you don't recognize, call us. We respond. There's no doubt in my mind because of the presence of the citizens, ... they're recognizing crimes before they happen and we're responding to those crimes that we've deterred."
Along with the community policing, Jones and his 14 officers also have started Police and Citizens Together as a way to introduce Adairsville residents to their law enforcement officers.
"I've assigned an officer to each area, to a subdivision or an area within the city, and basically, that's their area," Jones said. "They have community meetings with those people. Those people tell them what their concerns are with the department, if there's suspicious activity going on in a certain area or a certain house. What that does, it builds a bond between the citizens and the officers and that officer is responsible to that community.
"When you have an officer that doesn't live in the city, you're not as vested. I live here. My kids go to school here. But, when you give some ownership to that officer and say, 'Hey, this is your little part of Adairsville that you need to take care of and be responsible of these people,' then they take it a little bit more personal to answer their questions."
Police and Citizens Together allows the community to get to know their officers and work with them to reduce crime in the area. The program also gives residents the opportunity to attend meetings with their designated officer and call him with non-emergency questions at any time.
Neighborhood Watch programs also are helping the city lower its crime.
"We've had about four Neighborhood Watch meetings now and we're getting a large volume of calls because the citizens are seeing things before they happen and our officers are responding before the crime's ever committed," Jones said. "Last month, we had 1,200 calls. That's almost double the average what we had six months ago."
Jones discovered the community involved programs through research and reading.
"I've read some books by prominent chiefs like the former chief of Los Angeles. He reduced crime in LA, New York and Boston by doing these types of programs," Jones said. "So, imagine if he can reduce crime in those large cities in a small, tight-knit community like this how much you can do. We're seeing the effects of it. I feel that it's going in the right direction. ... We're trying to build that tight-knit relationship, and the officers have really taken to it. They're really taking a hold of the concept and it's really doing what we want it to do."
Jones says he has not been the only one to make all of these changes possible and has added new faces to the force from around the county and even bringing on one officer from Calhoun.
"Danny Moore was a lieutenant here and I promoted him to major the same night I was promoted to chief," Jones said. "He's got 25 years of service with the city and he does a great job. Mike Fitz was the assistant chief at Euharlee and used to be the chief in Kingston. He's a native of Adairsville and always wanted to work here. Doug Simons also came from Euharlee. He's a retired Marine sergeant major and ... here he's a lieutenant over shift rotations. Michael Baldwin came to us from Emerson. He was a sergeant there and he's assigned to the K-9. We just hired a new officer who worked at Calhoun. He saw what we were doing here and wanted to be a part of it."
Dagger, the 4 year-old German Shepherd recently donated to the department by Mike Rolfe of Cobb County, is included in the personnel addition as well.
"He is an officer," Jones said. "If he gets hurt, that is a felony. It's just like anybody else. You try to destroy a police dog, then you have to answer to the courts."
The furry unit has proven to be an "exceptional" addition and will be able to assist officers on more than the criminal side of the job.
"He can track a lost human being," Jones said. "Like a missing child or an elderly person that might have dementia or Alzheimer's."
Though he may seem friendly when his guard is down, Dagger is a working dog and shares a bond with his handler that will result in protecting the officer at whatever cost.
"You gotta remember with these K-9s, when they're on the leash they're working," Jones said. "When they come off the leash, they let their guard down a little bit.
"The K-9 goes home with the officer and becomes part of their family. With this type of dog, if Michael Baldwin is ever injured out there, he won't let anyone get near him. He'll protect him to the death.
"So it's good to have him socialized with other officers, and that's good [when the worst happens] because we can have two options: either the officer can call and [the dog will] answer, or you have to put the animal down and that's the last thing you want to do. So he's pretty sociable for the most part. He's a pretty good dog, but you can't guarantee his temperament."
The department plans to keep Dagger in service for four years before retiring him to live a normal life.
"You don't want to keep them in service the full extent of their life because, like everyone else, they'll develop hip problems or back problems," Jones said. "When he retires he can stay with the officer if he wants to keep him, or he'll come live with me. He's a good dog. But he and Mike have gotten close."
Baldwin, smiling and petting Dagger, objects to the idea of giving up his comrade.
"If I keep him four years, he'll live at my house [when he's retired]."
Dagger is trained in drug recognition, fugitive apprehension and tracking.
For the coming year, Adairsville has plans and goals for the department to continue to move forward and better serve their citizens.
"We want to become a state certified agency," Jones said. People say, 'Why do you want to do that?' What that tells your citizens is that you're willing to answer to an even more higher, more stringent authority and have higher, more stringent policies than the average police department. ... We're going to raise ourself to a higher bar than the average law enforcement agency.
Overall, Jones is pleased with the positive changes.
"When you educate your citizens, and they have trust and confidence in you that you're going to come when they call, there's nothing better in this world when you can join hands with your citizens and they say, 'Hey, those are our cops and they're going to do what needs to be done and we believe in them because we've seen how they work,'" Jones said. "It's not always going to be roses here. We're gonna have our stumblings. But, for the most part, we're getting where we need to be and most of the credit goes to the officers."