FLOWERY BRANCH – The Flowery Branch City Council focuses much of its time and energy on carefully controlling the city’s rapid growth, but Thursday evening it heard from Flowery Branch Police Chief David Spillers about another kind of growth spurt affecting the south Hall County municipality: crime.
No place in Hall County is growing faster than Flowery Branch. “Thirty-one percent of all the houses built in the entire county last year were built within Flowery Branch,” City Manager Bill Andrew told council members. “We’re obviously a much smaller land mass than thirty-one percent.”
But keeping up with that strong rate of growth, possibly even surpassing it according to Spillers, is crime.
But, Spillers quickly pointed out, the perpetrators of most of that crime have travelled to Flowery Branch from other locations. “The criminal element…does not come from the City of Flowery Branch. Most of it comes from south of us,” Spillers said. “And that’s causing a great deal of concern.”
“Right now we’re functioning at a level of about one police officer per one thousand residents,” Spillers said. “When I started here fifteen years ago we were operating at three police officers per thousand residents. We have steadily moved downhill.”
Spillers said it was not long ago that, “…at one time, for a period of about three or four years, we were one of the top five safest cities of our size in the State of Georgia. This year we have dropped down to the 47th safest city in Georgia.”
“And that’s a detestable statistic as far as I’m concerned.”
“I’m requesting four patrol officers to augment what we have,” Spillers told city council. At present there are sixteen members on the Flowery Branch Police Department. “I know it’s expensive; I wish I had a way to fix that.”
A decade ago there were thirteen members on the force; during that decade the population of Flowery Branch doubled.
Stillers said he is also requesting that another investigator to be added to his department as well as a training instructor. “We’ve all read and heard all the horror stories…about things that involve lack of training or improper training. Those things can result in some pretty significant liability.”
Several people attending the online meeting spoke up during the time for public comment in strong support for Spillers' requests.
Bob Hayes of Hopscotch Court in Flowery Branch said he echoed Chief Spillers’ concerns. “I don’t think there’s anything more important right now than public safety. It certainly would be nice to see Flowery Branch back up there among the top safest cities in the state.”
William McDaniel is a retired peace officer living in Flowery Branch and told council members, “For the safety of the citizens, for the safety of our officers and for the safety of the people the officers come in contact with, it’s a real good idea to get more guys out there. I’m all for bringing in more houses but we also got to bring in the more help.”
Spillers closed his comments by saying, “It’s sort of like a football team, or a baseball team, or a basketball team. There has to be a certain number of people in order to take the field. In the case of baseball you gotta have nine people in order to take the field; it’s to the point now where we can’t take the field.”