Class designed to combat forgeries
• Businesses encouraged to attend free course to help cashiers spot possible forgeries and counterfeits
By Parish Howard
Anita Thompson, a Jefferson County Magistrate Judge, has seen an increase of possibly 25 percent more cases of counterfeiting, forgery and deposit account fraud this year.
"We've definitely seen more and more cases," Thompson said. "In one recent case one person forged and cashed more than 100 checks on their own mother. We've also had a case where someone has taken a payroll check, made copies of it and cashed them at several different businesses."
Wrens Police Chief David Hannah said that a lot of these sorts of cases can be very difficult to work without the right information being recorded by clerks or cashiers accepting the bogus checks.
In an effort to combat this growing problem, law enforcement officials are encouraging all local businesses throughout the county to take part in a two-hour course Nov. 15.
Chief Hannah said the course, being offered free of charge, will focus on how businesses can best partner with law enforcement to make arrests in these sorts of crimes.
"It will involve what to look for and how to identify forgeries and counterfeits," Chief Hannah said. "Without certain information from the businesses, these crimes can be real hard to solve. With the recent increase in these thefts and the fact that we're coming up on the holidays, we thought it would be a good time to hold this class."
In many ways, the businesses who take part stand to gain the most from the class, Thompson said.
"It's the businesses who ultimately get burned," she said. "They have to absorb that expense. If the perpetrators are caught, they can be forced to make restitution."
Hannah asks that anyone interested in taking the class send a letter to him at city hall on company letterhead to ensure that they will not be teaching any would-be criminal how to avoid getting caught.
"All of our businesses could benefit from this," Thompson said. "It's going to be important for those managers or supervisors who attend to make sure this information gets to their clerks and cashiers."
The Nov. 15 class will be sponsored by the Wrens Police Department, in conjunction with the Jefferson County Magistrate Court and all other county law enforcement agencies. It will be held at Wrens City Hall's civic room, beginning at 9 a.m.
According to Chief Hannah, it appears some of the same individuals are passing forged and/or counterfeit checks throughout the county, from Wrens to Wadley.
"Some are forgeries, where they are signing someone else's name," Hannah said. "Others are payroll checks they've taken and made copies of. With the availability of laser printers and all this technology these days, some people are creating checks, printing copies and our stores are cashing them."
His department is also currently working on cases involving other forms of identity theft including some credit card thefts.
"It's just getting to be that time of year," Hannah said. "This is going to get worse as we move into the holidays."
For more information contact Chief Hannah at (706) 547-3000.
Leaving improvements in their wake
• SHIPS for Youth received almost $3 million to address community issues over the last three years; over the next several weeks we will look at the issues they've addressed
By Jennifer Flowers
For the last three years the Jefferson County Community SHIPS for YOUTH, a local grassroots collaborative organization, has been busily working to improve life for the county's citizens.
The "SHIPS" referred to in the organization's name come from relationships, partnerships and leadership. It operates under the belief that people's foundation is dependent upon their relationships, their growth is dependent upon their partnerships and their success is dependent upon their leadership.
The staff of the Jefferson County Community SHIPS for YOUTH strives to establish a safer school environment for the county's youth, encourage the development of healthier students and families and accomplish permanent systems change.
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The funding it receives from various community members and groups is used to support such efforts as a parenting/family involvement initiative, a youth development leadership program, male involvement programs, after school programming, cultural enrichment/awareness activities, school-based mental health counselors, alternative school programming enhancements, law enforcement community outreach programs and staff development opportunities for local agency staff.
Many of those efforts were put into practice through the support of a grant offered as part of the Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative.
The grant provided $954,937 per year for three years to assist in efforts to better the community.
The money was awarded after collaborative measures were taken by the Jefferson County School System, SHIPS for YOUTH, and other partners.
They submitted the paperwork in June of 2002 and were notified of the decision in September of the same year.
The three years began on Oct. 1, 2002 and ended on Sept. 30, 2005.
Without the grant, coordinators will have to seek additional funds to sustain the programs. However, much of the grant money was used to establish the programs. Now that they are in place, less money will be needed to keep them going.
The grant was used to fund various efforts related to the six components of the Jefferson County Safe Schools/Healthy Students comprehensive
plan designed by SHIPS for YOUTH. While the staff had already been hard at work on each of the components, additional funding was needed to help the programs grow and install new ones.
The components include safe school environment, alcohol and other drugs and violence prevention and early intervention, school and community mental health prevention and treatment intervention programs, early childhood and emotional developmental services, educational reform and safe school policies.
The first initiative, safe school environment, provides for a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant, community policing program and metal detectors, all of which help to bring about a decrease in discipline problems in local schools.
Jefferson County earned the COPS grant automatically when it received the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant.
The program receives a lot of support from community leaders, the sheriff's office and school administration and staff.
"The support paths actually stem from the SHIPS for YOUTH office," Officer Douglas Tatum said.
The idea, however, came from another community source.
"The desire to have this particular program was the vision of Sheriff (Gary) Hutchins," SHIPS for YOUTH Executive Director Carolyn Swint said, noting that the sheriff partnered with SHIPS for YOUTH to obtain funding to make the dream a reality.
The COPS grant supplies the salary paid to Officer Tatum, who is currently in his second year of service at Louisville Middle School. He has had ten years of experience working as a resource officer, much of which was spent working in the Atlanta area.
While he spends most of his time at Louisville Middle School, Tatum also serves the youth of Wrens and Wadley through alcohol, tobacco and other drug (ATOD) prevention/intervention and abstinence education programs.
Tatum also makes law enforcement available after regular school hours for summer school and after school programs, works with teachers at each grade level to promote prevention/intervention and interacts with students in a classroom setting by teaching ATOD classes.
He uses lessons plans and other materials approved by the Board of Education to present to the students. Items he uses include booklets, pamphlets and videos.
Each parent was presented with the option to say no to allowing his or her child to participate in the lessons.
"It's encouraged by the parents as well," Tatum said, noting that only two parents did not want their children to participate.
While the COPS grant pays his salary, the materials and training necessary are provided by the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant, which also allowed for the purchase of metal detectors.
Tatum acts as a liaison, bridging the gap between the school and the community with home visits.
Sometimes he accompanies a social worker or resource teacher to the home of a student. Other times he simply makes the visit himself.
Home visits are vital in the prevention of drug use and behavioral problems when students begin to spend time with the wrong individuals.
"Probably 80 percent of our job is a preventative situation," Tatum said.
He only becomes involved with a discipline problem if it involves a juvenile complaint, drug or weapon, and demonstrates that the student poses a danger to others. It is only at the advice of a school administrator that he gets involved.
While a teacher needs only reasonable suspicion to step in, officers must have probable cause.
According to Samuel Dasher, Principal of LMS, Officer Tatum has done well meeting with classes regularly to reduce the use of all drugs at the school.
"It's a very large arena of responsibility," Tatum noted. "My day goes from around 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m."
Tatum is now an essential part of the community.
"When I started in the school, it wasn't a situation where I knew the students or the parents really well," Tatum remarked, noting that both students and parents are now comfortable seeking his assistance at any time.
Future plans related to the first component of the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant include training. Officer Tatum and Principal Dasher will travel to Maryland in December for a training session paid for by the Safe Schools grant.