Hamilton excited about progress in public safety

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 2, 2004

GREENSBORO &045;&045; Police Chief Claude Hamilton believes his city is safer because of the persistent work of his department over the last few years.

There was one armed robbery in 2003, he said, which occurred at the Magnolia Restaurant. "We got those guys.

Hamilton, born and raised in Greensboro, was appointed the police chief after serving in the same capacity in Marion for two years. He will have been police chief for four years in August 2004.

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Hamilton and Hale County Sheriff Larry Johnson held a public town meeting in 2000. The police chief showed reports from 1989 to 2000. "Greensboro had been averaging six to 13 armed robberies a year, and most of them were unsolved….They (the public) was shocked."

Hamilton checked to see what businesses were continually being robbed. Wards (now closed), Sav More (now Texaco), Crispy Chick and Churches were the victims of robberies. "Each business in that little area had been robbed so many times.

People began to avoid driving through Greensboro because it was a traffic trap.

When Hamilton assumed the position of chief the department began "aggressive investigations" on robberies and burglaries. "We work until we make arrests. We don’t stop…until we’ve found the suspect and put him under arrest."

In summer 2003 there was a rash of small drug-related burglaries where lawn mowers and weed eaters were stolen. Hamilton admits many such burglaries are still unsolved.

The drug addicts are able to sell those items very quickly. "People are buying this stuff, he said. "If they didn’t have anywhere to take it, to sell it," it wouldn’t encourage the theft. "People will buy stolen items at random. They don’t care. If a person comes to someone’s house with a nice saw at night, they will buy that saw. And you would be surprised you would buy it.

In addition, "the City of Greensboro has done more drug searches and drug raids (in his time as chief), he said. Hamilton had worked 13 years previously on the Greensboro force, "and we never did drug raids."

There used to be an area in Greensboro named "Crack Alley" by police officers, he said. It wasn’t funny to Hamilton that a neighborhood had been branded with such a name. "We stayed in the neighborhood, and it is no longer known as ‘Crack Alley.’"

Cleaning out specific areas of the city tends to move the drug addicts to prey on other areas. Drug addicts are so desperate that there are parts of the city that criminals wouldn’t dare touch before that become targets for theft. "With drugs they don’t care where they go," he said.

It’s a constant struggle for officers to keep parts of the city free of drugs, Hamilton said.

The Greensboro force currently has nine officers including the chief with funding to add a 10th officer. It is not hard to find people who want to work in Greensboro, he said. "This mayor (John E. Owens Jr.) and council have almost doubled the police salaries," Hamilton said. They have seven police vehicles including two new ones.