Our path to the future

By CHRIS GEORGE / Guest Columnist

I’m a transplant. I moved to Shelby County in 1997 because I recognized a good thing when I saw it. Once my wife and I were here, we began to work on the rest of our family to move here. Bars on the windows and multiple deadlocks were not my idea of where I wanted to raise a family. Gunfire should not be the background music for Sunday afternoon visits.

Ten years ago, the Shelby County Department of Planning and Development conducted a review of the needs of our county and reported its findings in a 69-page response to the comprehensive plan.

It is in-depth, impressive, and details policies that include growth and development, industry and agriculture, transportation and utilities, environment and conservation.

The study also found that there were many other areas that should be considered in the comprehensive plan. As an administrator in law enforcement, I was pleased to see that public safety is a key element in future decisions that will be made in our county.

The issue of public safety, as with any other concern, has a great impact on the quality of life in Shelby County. The role of law enforcement is to “protect and serve,” but we try to do this with little to no impact on your daily routine.

We don’t want the bad guys roaming the street with free reign over our neighborhoods. I often recall the drug dealer that told one of our undercover officers that he wasn’t coming to Shelby County to sell drugs because he didn’t want to get arrested.

That is the fear we want to instill in all criminals and do so without our citizens even knowing it exists. You don’t think about where the water comes from when you turn on the faucet — you just know it is there when you need it. Same principle.

What we do need to realize is that Shelby County is a “target-rich” environment. We live in a county of 800 square miles and well over 200,000 citizens that boasts the lowest unemployment rate in the state and, according to the last census, home values that average nearly $200,000 with a median income of nearly $69,000.

I would guess that most of us have flat screen televisions, computers, mobile devices and jewelry in our homes, as well as two cars in the driveway. In infantry school, I was taught that once you have the high ground, once you have gained control over an area, you do not give it back. We have the high ground in public safety, and we don’t need to give it up, because it will be very difficult and costly to get it back.

Generally speaking, the preferred officer-to-citizen ratio is about two officers per 1,000 citizens. Currently, counting every sworn officer in the county and the cities, we are about 150 officers short of that ratio.

The last question asked in the report is, “What is best for Shelby County?” I can answer that. The best is the best we can provide through prioritizing our resources and affording our citizens and visitors a place to feel safe and secure.

Capt. Chris George is a commander with the Criminal Investigations Division of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. He can be reached at cgeorge@shelbyso.com.