The LPD’s community outreach unit

Published 6:25 pm Thursday, January 24, 2019

The LaGrange City Council did something somewhat unorthodox during its Tuesday afternoon work session. Instead of holding the meeting at city hall, the council took a short field trip to the LaGrange Police Department to conduct its business. The reason behind the change in location was to allow the council to witness a meeting of the Community Outreach Committee, which meets bi-monthly at the LPD office.

The Community Outreach Committee serves as one of the tendrils of the LPD’s Community Outreach Unit. The committee blends together leaders from the faith community, nonprofit organizations and the business world, as well as private citizens, in an effort to fully leverage the different resources offered by each, with the ultimate goal of reducing crime within the city and to provide resources to those in need.

This particular meeting, which was a standing-room-only affair in light of the council’s presence, focused on crime trends from within the city during recent years. Different LPD officers presented varying pieces of information, all telling different chapters of the same story. That story: crime rates have dropped in recent years. A quick encapsulation of this claim was shown when the LPD showed the population of LaGrange has grown by approximately 15 percent since the mid-1990s, while Part 1 crimes in total have decreased over the same period by approximately 34 percent.

This reduction in crime is, in part, a result of solid police work from our police officers, but in a broader sense demonstrates the LPD’s ability to partner with community members and organizations, and to use those groups as crime-deterring proxies. LPD Chief Lou Dekmar understands the importance of the police department’s relationship with the community, and has been forward-thinking in his efforts to enhance those partnerships.

While the overall trend shown during the Tuesday meeting relayed positive results, within that time frame are obvious peaks and valleys. For example, LaGrange saw five homicides in 2018, a total seen only once before in the last 20 years.

In addition to these five from 2018, an 18-year-old was tragically found dead in LaGrange Tuesday morning due to injuries suffered from a gunshot wound. It’s important to note that the actual shooting took place in Newnan, so as of this writing, there hasn’t been a homicide in the city of LaGrange in 2018. 

These events are tragic and bring out understandable indignation from the community. No one wants to live in a city overrun by crime, and when multiple homicides occur in a short window of time, as they did in the latter half of 2018, the outlook for the future of the community can feel bleak.

Couple this with the reality that most people sift through good news to fixate on the bad, and the outlook can appear even more dour. We see this response permeate through the community in the aftermath of these tragic events time and again.

Yet, this is not the case. Context and perspective are always important, and the data shows LaGrange has continued to trend in a positive direction as it relates to crime in recent years.

This newspaper, and any newspaper worth its salt, will always strive to report the news of the community accurately and without bias, free from outside influences. As we set about this mission, we certainly will always report on major crime taking place in the community. However, what is just as important is recognizing the efforts from those in the community and within our police department who are joining hands, working together to ensure a bright future for our city. The Community Outreach Program, and those who serve on it, have a demonstrated heart for LaGrange, and care about the future of those who live here.

Those will always be stories worth telling.