Among the most commonly performed, and most important duties, include serving court papers and executing arrest warrants issued by courts or local law enforcement.
Most of the time, individuals are arrested immediately after an officer has cause to accuse them of a crime. Sometimes, people aren’t accused of a crime until time has passed, or there are other circumstances, such as the person being hospitalized after an incident. Other times, people serving probation or parole engage in activities that violate a court’s orders or the terms of their prison release, and a warrant is issued for their arrest.
Recently, the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office did what is called a “warrant roundup,” in which they attempted to serve 26 of the hundreds of outstanding warrants in their possession. In a multiple-day effort, a group of 20 officers (including deputies and local probation and parole officers) made three arrests and found that one person listed on a warrant was actually deceased. Three of the people contacted by deputies came to the Magistrate Court to pay for bad checks, satisfying the warrant.
Around the same time, Sheriff’s deputies also checked up on 36 people listed on the county’s sex offender registry, to make sure they were living where they were registered, and otherwise complying with the terms of each individual’s court sentencing. There’s actually 110 sex offenders registered as living in Decatur County, and the Sheriff’s Office is required by law to verify the current residence of each one at least once per year.
In reality, Decatur County Sheriff’s Office attempts to verify all registered sex offenders’ residences at least twice per year, so the checks are done in phases throughout the calendar year. Georgia law requires sex offenders to notify their local Sheriff’s Office of where they are currently living, for public safety reasons, and sex offenders also have certain restrictions on where they can reside, that vary according to when they committed their offense.
Anyone who is convicted of a crime that causes them to register as a sex offender after 2006 is prohibited from living within 1,000 feet of any place where children gather, such as a church, school or park. Sex offenders who had to register before 2006 have less stringent requirements, due to a legal challenge to state law.
“We check on things like whether they’re living where they’re supposed to, and whether they have any new phone numbers or vehicles that they may have obtained since the last time we checked on them,” said Captain Liz Croley of the Decatur County Sheriff’s office. “We make surprise checks at sex offenders’ registered residence, and sometimes we find a situation that is not supposed to occur.”
In the most recent check on local sex offenders, Sheriff’s deputies arrested two sex offenders because they were in violation of the conditions a judge had sentenced them to. In one case, the offender was living in a home with children (not permitted) and was also in possession of pornographic materials. The other arrest was also because the person was in possession of porn.
“Every sex offender has different conditions they have to abide by and restrictions on where they can live and work, depending on when they were convicted and what conditions the judge gave them,” Captain Croley said.
Another lesser-known duty of the Sheriff’s Office, that is not required by law but is important to them, is Operation Safe Holiday. During the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, Sheriff’s deputies make a habit of checking in with local businesses, both in Bainbridge and other parts of Decatur County. The winter holidays are known to be a time when crimes such as theft or robbery are more likely to occur.
The check-ins may consist of a deputy making sure a building or property is secure when it’s closed or standing by with a business’ employees as they prepare to make a bank deposit or close up their business.
Deputies also take time to visit a business during opening hours, and talk with employees, which helps provide a link to the community and also sometimes gives deputies important information they need to know on their patrols of the county.
“The citizens love Operation Safe Holiday, as well as other business checks we do during the year,” Captain Croley said. “We often get letters from businesses, thanking us, and it makes us feel good to know we’re doing something that helps people feel more safe.”
Find out more about what deputies do at work at the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office website
Learn more about the duties and roles of Sheriff’s deputies at the Georgia Sheriff’s Association website
Frequently Asked Questions about Georgia sex offender laws (Georgia Bureau of Investigation)