JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — Fulton County Sheriff Ted Jackson spoke about jail and community programs designed to keep our community safer Nov. 13 at a Johns Creek Rotary meeting.
Jackson served with the FBI for 33 years, and after a brief appointment as an interim sheriff in 2004, he was elected to the position in 2008 and has held the seat since.
The Johns Creek Rotary was happy to welcome him not only as the county sheriff, but also as a resident of Johns Creek.
He began his talk by acknowledging the confusion about the difference between the sheriff’s office and police. Unlike rural counties, Fulton County residents usually interact with city police when they call 911 or report a crime.
“[Johns Creek Police Chief] Ed Densmore is a good friend,” Jackson said. “We have a close relationship.”
The sheriff’s office helps facilitate criminal investigations that cross city borders, works with the county courts and operates the county jail system.
On a daily basis, there are more than 3,000 inmates in the jail system. About 98 percent were arrested for violent crimes and at least 40 percent have some sort of mental health concern, Jackson said.
Jackson explained that treating mental health and reducing recidivism are among the biggest challenges in operating a jail.
“One of the problems in our system is that people get locked up, they get released, locked up, released,” Jackson said. “You have to break the cycle.”
To that end, the jail offers literacy, GED and career training programs to inmates, and works with partners to help former inmates find housing, jobs and substance abuse or mental health treatment once released.
This October, the sheriff’s office received a $1.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service to continue to fund the Smart Reentry Program that Jackson established in 2016.
“We have to lock people up to make you safe, but we also should work on them and give them a chance,” Jackson said. “When you look at society as it is, if you grow up in the wrong neighborhood, a lack of parenting or education, your environment makes a big difference. You get stuck, but when we pull you out and get you in our environment, we can work on you.”
The sheriff’s office also works to stop the cycle before it begins through youth intervention programs.
“What we’re trying to do is people in the system, get them out,” Jackson said. “If they’re not in the system, keep them out.”
Another element of community outreach the sheriff’s office does is senior education. Seniors are often targeted as victims of scams, he said. Rather than listing every scam to look out for, Jackson said he recommends a simple rule: “If it sounds too good to be true, it’s too good to be true.”
Jackson also briefly touched on the sheriff office’s work with local, state and federal joint task forces, including terrorism, drugs, human and sex trafficking and cybercrime. He said the office is also working to establish a gang task force, as gang activity is on the rise in certain areas of the county.
Johns Creek Rotary President Kelly Stephens asked about homelessness in Johns Creek and human trafficking, which has been an important issue for Rotary Clubs nationwide.
“I didn’t say a lot about Johns Creek, because it’s one of the safest cities there is,” Jackson said. “I know you have a burglary here or there, but crime is going to happen. Maybe a murder once in awhile, but it’s domestic. It’s not gang related. That’s why we’re doing the gang task force, to make sure the violence doesn’t make it to Johns Creek.”