While much of their time is spent patrolling the miles of roads throughout the county, the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office also offers a variety of services beyond investigating accidents and crimes.
With the rise of purchases made online through places, like yard sale pages on social media sites, one way the sheriff’s office provides buyers and sellers alike a bit more security with their transactions is with specialized transaction zones.
Located at all five precincts, as well as the south annex in Woodstock and the traffic enforcement unit headquarters in Ball Ground, these zones are special parking spaces where transactions can take place. Motion-activated cameras on the side of the precinct buildings keep a close watch on these parking spaces, and can also operate in the infrared to observe any activity after dark.
“This benefits the public in ways you may not be able to measure,” Cherokee Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Jay Baker said.
The “R U OK?” program is primarily geared toward elderly residents of the county and those who may be homebound. The program is based at the sheriff’s office headquarters in Canton, but is a joint effort between the sheriff’s office and officials with the Georgia Crime Information Center’s office based at the facility.
Every day, those residents whose names have been put on a list for the program receive a call from one of the GCIC agents, making sure the resident is doing well and that everything is as it should be. If no contact is made on the first call, the officials will try calling one or two more times, and if there is still no response from the resident, deputies will be dispatched to the residence to physically check on the individual.
Baker said this project has become so well-received that, in lieu of holding an office Christmas party last year, those involved with “R U OK?” gathered up items to prepare special gift baskets which were taken to residents who are on the list to receive daily calls.
“They (the residents receiving calls) love it,” Baker said. “It gives them a peace of mind that someone’s checking up on them.”
Project Lifesaver is a program managed by the Cherokee County Emergency Management Agency in conjunction with the sheriff’s office. Mainly for people who are at risk of wandering off from home and not being able to find the way back, such as older people who have Alzheimer’s or dementia and children who are on the autism spectrum, Project Lifesaver is an electronic device (usually in the form of a bracelet worn by the individual) that emits a radio signal on a specific wavelength. Should the person at risk of wandering go off and not return, law enforcement officials can respond with tracking equipment, which hones in on the signal emitted by the device, making it easier to locate the wandering individual and return them home safely.
Paid for through grants and private donations, Baker said the Cherokee Sheriff’s Office helps the Cherokee County Emergency Management Agency with this program by checking in with residents participating in the program, changing out old batteries and helping caregivers maintain the equipment in good working order. Since the county began offering Project Lifesaver more than a decade ago, Baker said the program has proven to be invaluable for everyone involved.
“It has a high success rate of finding individuals,” Baker said. “It’s another layer of protection. The people who are involved are grateful, and everyone is pleased with it.”
Since these programs have been implemented by the county, a number of residents have taken advantage of them and have nothing but positive things to say about them. One Cherokee County citizen, Suzanne Collins of Woodstock, said she signed up for “R U OK?” a couple of years ago. Despite having moved out of the county for a time, then returning to Woodstock approximately a year ago, she said there is a great comfort knowing that someone is calling just to check up on her, especially with her nearest family being miles away in Arizona.
“You cannot put a dollar sign or the proper adjective on it to describe it,” Collins said. “I can’t define it. I’m extremely grateful and thankful.”
Collins described the program and the agents who call as being a comfort. According to her, the callers who ring her every day are always cheerful and never fail to greet her with an encouraging voice.
“They really make you feel like you’re important,” Collins said.
Along with ensuring she is doing well, Collins said the program has also helped her out in other ways. For example, she mentioned how, one day, a pair of deputies from the sheriff’s office arrived at her home to make sure she was doing well, as she had not answered her phone when the agents called her. However, she said her phone had not rang and thanks to the deputies coming to check on her in person, she was able to discover that her internet, through which her phone was connected, had gone down and was keeping her from receiving any calls.
“The county offers so many programs for its residents,” Collins said. “They go over and above for their people.”
Baker said the programs are mean to provide residents of Cherokee County a little more security in their daily lives in ways outside of more traditional methods.
“The Cherokee Sheriff’s Office is here to serve and protect. We want to do that in more ways than just responding to 911 calls,” Baker said. “Any program that enhances public safety and the quality of life for the citizens of Cherokee County, we’re all about supporting it.”