MILTON, Ga. — Milton Police held its first Facebook live town hall Nov. 14, giving residents the opportunity to ask the department questions and a chance for officers to outline their initiatives and programs. Videos of all the material and the town hall event can be viewed on the Milton Police Department Facebook page.
Chief Rich Austin, Lt. Chris Ward and Capt. Jason Griffin answered questions submitted by the community on a wide range of topics.
With recent SWAT situations in the city, some residents asked about communication during SWAT events.
Austin said residents should keep an eye on the department’s Facebook page, which will be updated with information as quickly as possible. Ward advised that residents should not rely on rumors or speculation.
The city received several questions relating to traffic, including what to do if you witness a reckless driver, which has become a talking point on a Facebook page for Milton residents.
“Our recommendation for handling a reckless driver that you witness is to, first and foremost, not put yourself in harm’s way,” Griffin said. “Don’t try to follow the vehicle. As far as taking photos of the car, we don’t recommend, if you are the driver of the vehicle, to utilize your cell phone. Of course, that is against the Georgia hands free law.”
Instead, drivers should call 911 and give the dispatcher a description of the car, it’s location and direction of travel.
“If you have a tag number, that is always very helpful to give our dispatchers,” Griffin said.
Austin also said the city will soon be conducting a traffic study and taking public input to determine whether speed limits within Milton are appropriate.
Another question dealt with how motorists should report hitting wildlife on the roads.
Ward said if the car is damaged, “absolutely” call 911 and an officer can respond to take an accident report so the driver can file an insurance claim. He said to also call if the animal is in the road and needs to be removed.
Austin said it may be counterintuitive, but Fulton County Animal Control does not respond to calls for wild animals. However, he said the city has partnered with Atlanta Wild Animal Rescue Effort in cases of injured or abandoned wild animals.
Residents also asked what they should do if they hear gunshots.
Griffin said Milton enforces the state statute, and discharging guns in Milton is not illegal if they are being fired in a safe manner and at least 50 yards away from a city street or highway. Ward said if there is any question, though, residents should reach out to police.
“If there is any question about gunshots, always pick up the phone, call 911,” Ward said. “Officers do have the ability to respond to that location, try to get us the best location you think the shots are coming from, and we can just verify it is not criminal in nature.”
Ward added that hunting is illegal in Milton under certain parameters. Deer hunting using firearms is illegal, but permissible with bow and arrows or crossbows. However, hunting birds with guns is legal in the city. He said there is land on Hopewell Road near Birmingham Road where people have hunted duck, and the state allows it before dawn.
Another question posed dealt with race and whether Milton officers have race sensitivity training and whether it is required.
Ward said all officers are required to have yearly training in cultural awareness and bias, and those who do not complete the training lose their certification to be an officer.
As the holiday season approaches, officers also discussed staying safe and how to avoid becoming a victim.
Ward said the department receives reports of phone scams on a daily basis and stressed that agencies like the IRS or Social Security office will never ask for your personal information over the phone. A red flag is when a caller asks for payment through gift cards like those from iTunes or Google Play.
Ward added that approximately 72 percent of entering auto incidents in the city occur on unlocked cars. He said residents should always leave their cars locked, remove key fobs from the car and hide any valuables from plain sight.