Mounting budget constraints are forcing law enforcement to find new approaches to fighting crime. Local officials told us that while budgetary constraints hurt, using the latest technology could help tremendously in filling the gap. The problem is that technology also costs money and the criminals are often one step ahead.
Nearly 70 percent of police agencies nationwide are facing budget cutbacks and Southwest Georgia is no exception. Captain Craig Dodd told us the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office is currently short 12 officers and that overtime for the staff he does have has basically been eliminated. "There's only so much you can accomplish in the normal work hours," said Dodd. "A lot of times, especially in a long term investigation, you may have to go out in the wee hours of the morning."
Dougherty County District Attorney Greg Edwards says technology offers ways to both save money and increase the effectiveness of police agencies. "Driving cars, routine patrols, of course, cost money as gas costs go up and I've always advocated using surveillance cameras for purposes of patrolling," said Edwards. "We can use computer technologies to to store information, to use it to engage in analysis."
But technology can be expensive, especially when it comes to teaching officers how to use it. "One thing, as well, that we have a lot of problems with is keeping up with technology, especially with social networks, with the camera systems we need to use," said Dodd.
There are a few surveillance cameras currently at use in downtown Albany. But law enforcement officials say they're limited by their range and by the same budget constraints that are affecting everything they do.
"The technology goes out of time very quickly," said Dodd. "We are unable to update a lot of the things that we need to use."
And criminals are often one step ahead. "They can get their hands on the same technology that we can and better," said Dodd.