After a long and productive career, one of Gwinnett’s finest has left the force.
#K-9 Draco, a nine-and-a-half-year-old Belgian Malinois, retired mid-July. He joined the Gwinnett County Police Department in 2007 when he was just two and has been with his handler, Cpl. Scott Fransen, ever since. A dual-purpose patrol dog, Draco has tracked dozens of suspects and sniffed out large amounts of narcotics during his time at GCPD. Read more.
By Kristi Reed
Mill Creek High School teacher Carol Clyde and the six students in her special education class recently wrote several letters to Specialist Chris Hobbs, a young soldier currently serving in Iraq.
Clyde learned about Hobbs through her daughter, Emma. Emma and Hobbs attended the University of West Georgia together. Hobbs joined the Army two years ago, and he and Emma have remained in touch.
Clyde and her daughter thought Hobbs would enjoy receiving mail from home. Clyde also felt the project would help her autistic students.
Clyde’s students are part of a self-contained special education class at Mill Creek High School where they learn life and job-related skills.
Five days a week, the students work at a grocery store, restaurant, church or the Gwinnett Public Library. The students are not paid. They work up to two hours a day to learn job skills and what is appropriate in a job environment.
In addition to life and job skills, the students also receive academic instruction.
“As part of the functional academic curriculum, I wanted them to learn how to write letters,” Clyde explained.
Clyde helped each student write an individualized letter to Hobbs. Student Eric Sweet wrote about his upcoming seventeenth birthday. Madison Blackstone told Hobbs about a recent trip to South Carolina. Christine Park wrote about her summer trip to Savannah and Daniel Chung told Hobbs about his recent move from California.
“Chris wrote every single one of them back an individual letter. He responded to what they had written him and he sent them all a flag patch,” Clyde said.
Student Eric Sweet said he wanted to write a letter because he thought Hobbs might be homesick. Park said she enjoyed reading Hobbs’ letter and would like to meet him. Chung said he really liked his flag patch.
Blackstone said she felt very good about getting Hobbs’ letter. At the end of her letter to Hobbs, she wrote “PS-I hope you come home safe.” She was pleased when at the end of his letter to her, Hobbs wrote “PS- I will try to come home safely."
Enclosed with the packet of letters was a full sized American flag. Hobbs, an aviation crew chief on a Blackhawk helicopter, included a photo of him and crewmates Anthony Leon-Guerrero, Matthew Mahoney and George Rabb holding the flag while standing in front of their helicopter.
Hobbs also sent a certificate explaining the significance of the flag.
According to the certificate, the flag accompanied Hobbs and his crewmates on seven missions over the Iraqi cities of Baghdad, Tikrit, Balad, Al Kut, Ar Ramadi and Al Fallujah. Hobbs listed the dates of the missions and had each of his crewmates sign the certificate.
In his letter to Sweet, Hobbs wrote “The flag for your class was flown on your 17th birthday. I truly hope it was a special one”.
Clyde was so touched by the effort Hobbs made to respond to each of her students and the effort he made in sending the special gifts, that she decided to make contact with Hobbs’ mother, Janet.
“Chris’ mom is also a special education teacher,” Clyde said. “So, I looked her up and emailed her to tell her what her son had done for us.”
“His mother wrote me and said [Hobbs] is a very caring young man,” Clyde said. Janet Hobbs also sent a photo of her son which is now on display in Clyde’s classroom.
Clyde and her students are currently planning a special shopping trip for Hobbs. The class will be purchasing Christmas presents with money they raised by selling Chick-fil-A biscuits during final exam week last year. The students are very excited about the trip.
“We’re going Christmas shopping for Chris,” Blackstone said. “We’re going to get him a phone card, beef jerky and DVDs.”
Clyde said Hobbs is a special young man and she is grateful to him and others currently serving abroad. “No matter if you support the war or not, you have to support these young men and women,” Clyde said.
Clyde said she was very touched by a letter Hobbs sent to the class. The letter reads in part:
“My name is Christopher Hobbs. I am 22 years old and I was born in Douglasville, Georgia. I joined the Army March of 2006 and I am currently deployed in Iraq. I work on a Blackhawk helicopter as a crew chief,” he wrote.
Hobbs thanked each of the students for their letters and said he hoped they enjoyed the American flag patches he sent. His letter continues:
“Enclosed is a flag for you to keep in your classroom that flew in my vest on seven combat missions in Iraq. I do hope that you enjoy everything I have sent. I thank you for your support. You, your family and your class are in my hearts and prayers. God bless you all.”
The American flag Hobbs sent is proudly displayed in the front of Clyde’s classroom along with Hobbs’ picture. It serves as a daily reminder to Clyde and her students that a special young man is serving his country and appreciates their support.
Originally published 12/12/2007 in The Braselton News. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
By Kristi Reed
The death of a family pet is a traumatic event. Dealing with the tragedy can be a painful, long-lasting experience.
Dacula’s Oak Rest Pet Gardens is in business to help pet owners cope with their loss.
Manager Keith Shugart sees his job primarily as that of grief counselor, he said.
“Pet grief is really misunderstood,” Shugart said. “People think others haven’t experienced this. We tell them their feelings are normal.”
Oak Rest Pet Gardens is a full service facility that offers everything from same day cremations to interments and funeral services.
Shugart usually conducts the funeral services himself, although family ministers do sometimes preside over the burials. Denominational services are also accommodated as evidenced by a burial site marker engraved with a Star of David.
Shugart’s father, Doyle Shugart, started the family’s pet funeral business in 1972. The senior Shugart worked in the funeral business and saw a need to extend those services to pet owners. Sons Keith and Kyle are continuing the 30-year tradition. Their company, Deceased Pet Care, employs 16 people at pet cemeteries in Dacula and Chamblee.
The Dacula Oak Rest facility consists of 10 acres of manicured gardens and burial plots.
Approximately 3,000 family pets are currently interred at Oak Rest with room for 7,000 more.
The cemetery is divided into several different areas. Each section is anchored by a themed garden. One special garden, the Honor Garden, is reserved solely for police dogs such as Avar, a Lawrenceville Police Department K-9 responsible for capturing 567 criminals.
Burial plots at Oak Rest range in price from $275 to $315 depending on location. Owners can select from a variety of caskets and grave markers. According to Shugart, the average burial costs $750.
Cremation is a big part of their business with over 1,000 done annually.
Zoo Atlanta among Oak Rest clients
Zoo Atlanta’s world-famous gorilla, Willie B., was cremated at Oak Rest. A framed letter from Zoo Atlanta President and CEO states in part: “We all want to thank you for providing crematory services for our old friend. It was a kind and generous response to our unexpected need.”
Cremation services cost between $45 and $175 depending on the animal’s weight. Bereaved owners can choose from a variety of urns, including simple wooden containers, ornate ceramic and metal jars, and even egg-sized urns for holding the remains of a beloved pet bird.
“These pets are members of the family,” Shugart says. “We operate like any funeral home. We know what the owners are going through and we try to help. We give them what they want. Any situation, we can handle.”
Funeral services are usually held in the gazebo in the middle of Oak Rest Pet Gardens. If desired, services can be held in the small chapel located in the main building. The tiny chapel closely resembles its larger, human oriented counterparts. Softly lit by a crystal chandelier, the chapel contains two pews and a small table that holds the remains of the departed pet during the service.
Every detail from the chapel wallpaper to its emerald carpet with tiny pink roses indicates Oak Rest Pet Garden’s desire to provide for the needs of their clients.
Shugart and his staff are dedicated to fulfilling the wishes of pet owners in their time of grief, he said.
“There are no financial barriers here,” Shugart said. “These people just love their pets. They say what we do really helps. It brings closure.”
Oak Rest is located at 2691 Harbins Road in Dacula. Office hours are Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5.
For more information, call: 770-457-7659.
By Kristi Reed
“Right away, ma’am.”
These are words Captain Deborah Schmid hears routinely – from teenagers. However, they’re not just any teenagers. These 54 young men and women are cadets in the Gwinnett County Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP).
“My husband and son were having such a good time [in Civil Air Patrol]. I came in and that ‘yes ma’am’ just sold me on the program,” Schmid said.
Designed for young people 12 to 21 years of age, the cadet program teaches aerospace education, moral leadership, physical fitness, and emergency services.
As part of the official Air Force Auxiliary, CAP cadets also wear Air Force uniforms and receive training in military customs and courtesies.
While CAP has cadets interested in aerospace engineering, rocket propulsion, radios or the military, Schmid says most of the cadets join Civil Air Patrol for another reason.
“For the most part, what they have in common is that they like to fly,” Schmid said.
Ten times a year, the cadets take flight in a Cessna 172, a four passenger aircraft. They also have the opportunity to take glider flights as well.
Captain Jim Weed, Civil Air Patrol pilot, explains that the cadet program is geared towards getting young people interested in flying.
“[The cadets] get to handle the airplane, interpret the instructions. They’re flying co-pilot,” Weed said. “It helps them when they decide to get their license. When they start flight training, they already know more than the average student.”
Although no formal flight instruction is offered through the CAP, cadets can earn scholarships to help finance their way through flight school.
CAP cadets can also earn college scholarships. Currently, the Gwinnett CAP has five cadets attending the Air Force Academy and also has cadets enrolled at MIT, VMI, and the Naval Academy.
Gwinnett CAP has some of the sharpest kids in the state, Schmid says. She points to the cadets’ recent performance at the Georgia CAP Color Guard competition as proof. The all day competition was held at Warner Robins Air Force Base on February 1st.
Gwinnett cadets scored first place in academics, physical training, standard drill, and outside presentation winning the Wing (Georgia) championship for the second consecutive year. The cadets will compete for the Southeast Regional Color Guard Championship in early April.
The Color Guard is just one of many elective activities available to the cadets. Cadets also have the opportunity to attend officer school, leadership school and a variety of summer encampments.
“We have such a variety of activities. Each individual cadet tends to go towards their particular area of interest,” Weed said. “We’ve got cadets that want to fly. We have cadets who concentrate on emergency services. Other cadets are interested in drill and ceremony.
“The majority tend to find an area they really like and stick with that. We have so much available.”
Flying is what attracted Lt. Dan Shaw to the Gwinnett CAP cadet program. The 17-year-old Acting Deputy Cadet Commander has been a cadet since spending a summer at Aviation Challenge.
“It’s the best deal on flying,” Shaw said.
An aspiring professional pilot, Shaw gives the Gwinnett CAP cadet program high marks.
“This [program] has done so much. I’ve learned managerial and leadership skills,” Shaw said. “I’ve got some lifelong friends here.”
The program has something for everyone, Shaw says. “I have never found a single person that this program can’t help. This program has everything. It’s really versatile.”
Capt. Weed agrees.
“[Kids] have got to come out and experience it,” Weed said. “When they see what goes on, they join up. You see these kids change overnight. What we give them as a foundation, they carry with them through life.”
Weed says he enjoys working with the cadets. “We work with an exceptional group of children,” he said. “We are helping them achieve their goals. We do see where we make a difference in their life.”
If you don’t get kids in a positive environment, they’re going to find an alternative, Schmid said.
“We want these kids to leave here better human beings. In this day and age, kids are looking for something to belong to,” Schmid said. “Civil Air Patrol is an alternative for them.”
For more information on the Gwinnett CAP cadet program, contact Capt. Deb Schmid at 770 995-3591 or visit http://gawg.cap.gov/gwincomp.
By Kristi Reed
Captain Jason Leach isn’t a police officer. Not yet.
For now he is the commanding officer of Police Explorer Post 552, the Gwinnett County Police Department’s program for young men and women interested in law enforcement.
Leach, a 2000 graduate of Brookwood High School, joined the Explorers three years ago to prepare for the career he has dreamed of since childhood.
“[Police work is] something I think you’re born to do,” Leach said. “[The Explorer program] gives you a straight path in life and gives you an edge on what to expect when you become a police officer.”
Explorers receive training similar to what GCPD recruits experience. Each week, Explorers gain practical experience in areas such as traffic stops, officer survival, defensive tactics, firearm familiarity and crime scene investigations.
Exploring is part of the Boy Scouts of America Learning for Life Program. This program encourages community organizations to create Explorer posts to match young adults interested in a particular career with the people and resources needed to explore that profession.
By exposing members to police work, Post 552 serves to attract interested youth to Gwinnett’s Police Department.
Explorer corporal and high school sophomore Sheila Moore has been interested in police work all of her young life.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do,” she said.
The best part of being an Explorer has been meeting people in the police department, making new friends, and having positive role models, Moore said.
Officer Rick Klok, Explorer Coordinator, enjoys working with the young men and women in the program. The Explorer program helps young people establish an identity and figure out their potential, Klok explained.
“My primary goal is to direct these kids and give them a role model,” Klok said.
Klok believes the program gives young people something they can identify with instead of drugs, gangs, and other negative behaviors.
“It provides them with a positive outlet,” Klok said.
In addition to classroom training, field trips and practical exercises, Explorers participate in two major competitions a year.
In October, Post 552 competed in the Augusta Explorers Competition. The post won first place in the emergency vehicle operation course and accident investigations, second place in the robbery in progress and escaped inmate competition, and third place in traffic stops. Individual explorers won first place in the advisor shooting competition and third place in the shotgun competition.
In January, GCPD Explorers will participate in the National Explorer Competition in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
“We’re a championship team; we’ve won 50 or 60 trophies over the years,” said Corporal Bruce Higgins of the GCPD. Higgins has worked with the GCPD Explorer post for 15 years.
Higgins says the Explorer program has many benefits: “You’re going to make friends for life in here. You’re going to get some valuable training, self-confidence, and discipline. You’re going to be a better person.
“I love working with these kids,” Higgins said. “No matter how bad the detail is, how nasty the conditions are, they don’t care. They love being Explorers like I love being a cop.”
A former Explorer coordinator, Higgins has worked to make the Explorer program exciting and fun.
“We try to keep it interesting,” Higgins said. “Most of the instructors are POST certified so they’re the same instructors they’ll see at the academy. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable experience.”
Cpl. Higgins noted that the Explorer program benefits him as well. “[I get] reassurance that the future of this country is in pretty good hands,” Higgins said. “These kids don’t tolerate bad behavior, deceitfulness, sloppiness. They discipline themselves. They’re the best. They really are.”
Explorer advisor Sue Ellen Renn agrees.
“They want to help other people,” Renn said. “It doesn’t matter how dirty they get, how tired they get. As long as they’re there to help other people, that is their goal.”
Since helping others is a primary role for police officers, community service is an important part of the Explorer program.
“The Explorers are putting a lot of their personal time aside to help their community,” Leach said. “We work hard to achieve greatness for our county.”
Participants in the GCPD Explorer program must be between the ages of 14 and 21 and must maintain at least a C average. An interview and background check are required for all applicants. Fees are $25 for enrollment and $10 annually.
Officer Klok would like to see the Explorer post grow.
“This course offers so much to people,” Klok said. “It teaches them leadership and professionalism. The more people we get involved, the more we can help the youth.”
To request an Explorer application, contact Officer Klok of the GCPD Crime Prevention Unit at 770 623-2610 Ext. 2620.
By Kristi Reed
You find a man lying on the ground unconscious and unresponsive. There is no indication as to what happened or any obvious signs of injury. Neighbors say he was cutting limbs and fell out of a tree. What do you do? Call a firefighter, of course.
Gwinnett County firefighters know exactly what steps are needed to assess the extent of his injuries. Each new firefighter recruit is required to attend a full-time medical training program at the Fire Rescue Training Academy located off Braselton Highway north of Dacula.
This 12 to 14 week program is designed to provide Gwinnett fire and emergency services personnel with the skills necessary to gain State of Georgia certification as an Emergency Medical Technician I (EMT-I). All Gwinnett County firefighters are required to obtain this certification.
Classroom lectures and practice scenarios teach firefighters/EMTs how to perform patient assessment, CPR, patient transport and a variety of other basic medical services.
Providing medical services is a major responsibility for the Gwinnett County Fire Department. Each year the Department responds to 47,000 calls. Approximately 37,600 of these calls are medical emergencies.
Jeff Yoder, Director of Training for the Fire Rescue Training Academy, explains that cross training each firefighter as an EMT insures that medical care begins as soon as possible for accident victims and others requiring medical assistance.
While EMT training provides firefighters/EMTs with the technical skills to respond to a medical emergency, Yoder explained that mental preparation is difficult to teach.
“Obviously you have to be able to tolerate seeing someone hurt,” Yoder said. “You’re going to see a lot of death and destruction. You have to know how to stay calm. It’s not easy sometimes.”
The department often has to provide counseling to help employees deal with the trauma they experience on the job, Yoder said.
Even though firefighter/EMTs must deal with human tragedy, the attrition rate is very low. The desire to help people motivates firefighters to continue with their job, Yoder explained.
There is also an aspect to emergency services that appeals to firefighters/EMT’s adventurous side.
“It’s exciting; it’s kind of hard to describe,” Yoder said. “It’s exciting to go [on a call]. It’s something different every day. You never know what you’re going to run across.”
The Fire Rescue Training Academy strives to prepare department personnel for anything they may encounter in the line of duty. There are currently 16 fire recruits participating in the Fire Academy’s EMT school. By the time the program ends, they will have spent 30 weeks in the academy’s fire and medical training program.
The EMT program is the second part of a firefighter/EMT’s training. The first 16 to 18 weeks are spent training to meet firefighter qualifications. These requirements include passing NPQ (National Professional Qualifications) firefighter I and II examinations, obtaining Hazardous Material First Responder Operations Level Certification, obtaining Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Certification, and successfully completing practical applications such as ladder drills, confined spaces exercises, search and rescue, rope rescue, and live fire training.
A firefighter’s education does not end upon graduation. They must maintain required certifications and are given the opportunity to take degree classes.
“One of the neat things about our fire academy is that we have an agreement with Gwinnett Technical Institute so that [recruits] can be enrolled in a firefighter/EMT diploma program,” Yoder said.
The fire academy hosts dozens of different classes each year. In addition to holding the fire recruit and EMT schools, the fire academy offers courses including fire and arson investigations, fire prevention, firefighting strategy and tactics, and incident command.
“We do all training for fire and emergency medical services in Gwinnett County,” Yoder said.
In addition to providing instruction for fire department personnel, the fire academy is also preparing to conduct a nine-week Citizen’s Fire Academy in 2003. Participants will take part in exercises designed to demonstrate firefighting tactics, emergency medical services, and disaster preparedness. Those citizens who take the course will learn about fire investigations, CPR, First Aid, and hazardous materials. The Citizen’s Fire Academy will also provide participants with Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training.
The Fire Rescue Training Academy is located at 3608 Braselton Highway behind Fire Station No. 18. For more information about the fire academy or the Citizen’s Fire Academy, call: 770 932-4800, or visit their Web site at www.gwinnettfire.org.
By Kristi Reed
They don’t wear designer sunglasses, plunging neck pullovers, or drive Humvees. They don’t pack 9mm handguns or work in slick, high-tech labs, and they don’t solve crimes in 60 minutes between commercial breaks.
They’re real crime scene investigators. They’re Gwinnett CSI.
The Gwinnett County Police Department currently employs 16 individuals in the crime scene investigations unit. These 12 crime scene technicians and 4 supervisors are responsible for documenting crime scenes throughout Gwinnett County.
Nancy Jenkins, head supervisor of the crime scene unit, says Gwinnett’s ever growing population has put a strain on the unit’s limited resources, particularly over the past five years.
“It wasn’t so much how many calls we had,” Jenkins said. “It was the type and the scene. [The hardest part has been] having the personnel to do what is expected of us.”
Jenkins emphasized that much is expected of the crime scene investigations unit: “We average around 50 crime scenes a month,” Jenkins said.
Technician Chris Cheek explained that for each crime scene, technicians must collect, preserve, package, document, and transport physical evidence left at the scene. How well the technicians do their job can determine the success of the entire investigation.
“If you’re a police officer, you just hold the scene; we document the scene,” Cheek said.
As seen on TV?“CSI” the television show has little in common with Gwinnett County’s crime scene investigations unit. Jenkins says the show is interesting though, even if it is not very realistic.
“They’re medical examiners, they’re doctors, they’re everything,” Jenkins said. “They never get dirty and they never get tired.”
Jenkins said real crime scene technicians and supervisors do get dirty and tired. The crime scene investigations unit operates five days a week, 24 hours a day with weekends spent on call. While on call, technicians and supervisors must be available to report to a scene immediately.
Burglaries are the most common crime scene the technicians work. While all crime scenes require detailed examination and careful processing, homicides are the most challenging according to the technicians. Each homicide scene takes 12 to 15 hours to process. Gwinnett County crime scene technicians have worked 17 homicides so far this year.
Jenkins said that not only are homicide scenes technically challenging, they can be emotionally stressful as well.
“You don’t forget it, you’re just not consciously looking at it. It becomes scientific,” Jenkins said.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be glamorous.”Mandy Briscoe said “CSI” was one of the reasons she ended up as a crime scene technician.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be glamorous, and it isn’t very fast paced,” Briscoe said. “The best part is going to the scenes and interacting with the officers.”
Working crime scenes may be the most exciting part of a crime scene technician’s job, but far more time is spent on routine tasks.
Evidence testing, photo development, report writing and filing occupy the technicians’ time between working crime scenes. Technician Cheek demonstrated how difficult it is to get caught up by pointing out a stack of 27 requests for marijuana tests that had accumulated over four days time.
Technicians Sandi Spain and Joe Petrocy recently spent five hours of a shift conducting tests on “green, leafy material” suspected to be marijuana.
“It’s not as glamorous as TV and movies make it out to be,” Spain said as she stood hunched over a microscope in a lab reeking with the pungent odor of marijuana, a scent that resembles a mixture of crushed marigolds and herbal tea.
Spain and Petrocy weighed, microscopically examined, and performed chemical tests on every sample to verify the seized substance was marijuana. Each step in the identification process is carefully documented since technicians will eventually be called to testify regarding the test results.
Spain said crime scene unit technicians rely heavily on notes and reports since it can be months or years before being called to testify about their findings.
“On those TV shows they give you the end result because it’s Hollywood,” Petrocy added. “In real life it may take years to see the end of the case.”
“Never see ‘CSI’ people wearing this”Technicians say they enjoy the challenge and adrenalin rush that accompanies going to a crime scene. Sometimes, however, the scene comes to them. Suspects may be brought in for fingerprinting or evidence may be delivered to the lab.
Cars suspected of being used in the commission of a criminal act can be processed in the garage at police headquarters. The detailed and lengthy procedure necessary to properly collect and catalogue evidence from a vehicle is far different from the process depicted on television.
What takes only a few minutes in television time may in reality take an hour or more even when processing a basically clean vehicle.
The vehicle’s appearance must be photographed from all angles. Pictures are taken of any damage, decals, accessories or any other identifying marks. The interior is also photographed to record the condition inside the vehicle.
Before a car is touched, technicians don a white, paper “marshmallow suit” along with cap and latex gloves to prevent transfer of their own prints, hair, or clothing fibers to the crime scene.
“Never see CSI people wearing this,” laughed technician Chris Cheek while pulling on the paper jumpsuit.
Fiber collection itself is a low-tech process. Giant pieces of tape are applied to all upholstered surfaces, stuck to a card, and the sample labeled.
The interior of the vehicle must be carefully searched. Every item found must be bagged and carefully labeled. Technicians must use caution when reaching under seats and in the various compartments to avoid being stuck with a contaminated needle or other sharp object.
The vehicle must also be dusted for prints. Technicians cover the vehicle top to bottom with black dusting powder. After careful visual inspection, any prints found are lifted for later examination.
Even then, the technician’s job is still not complete. Collected evidence must be locked up and reports must be written.
The devil is in the detailsThe physical evidence collected by crime scene technicians helps determine key elements of a crime such as when, where, and how a crime was committed.
Evidence collection and scene documentation can be tedious and requires careful attention to every detail of the scene. Technicians must have excellent observation skills and be able to write thorough, accurate reports.
Petrocy said detailed reports and notes are critical.
“You really have to watch what you say because they [the defense attorneys] are going to try to trip you up,” Petrocy said.
Technicians must be extremely careful in their choice of words when collecting and labeling evidence, explained Petrocy.
A three-button pullover shirt is not described as a polo shirt. It must be described as a “polo-like shirt”. What appears to be a diamond ring must be described as a “gold-colored ring with clear stone”.
Descriptions must be precise, factual and completely objective. Technicians must not form conclusions before the evidence is tested in the laboratory.
“It’s not always education or experience that makes a good tech. You need good attention to details and to be somewhat analytical,” Jenkins said.
Gwinnett County crime scene technicians must also be at least 18 years old, high school graduates, and preferably have one year of law enforcement experience. Each technician must complete three months of on the job training.
In order to become certified crime scene technicians, technicians are required to complete courses in crime scenes, evidence presentation, basic photography, privacy and security, marijuana identification, blood born pathogens, fingerprint classification, FBI latent print development and latent print identification at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth.
Computer skills are also useful. Crime scene technicians use digital lineup software, sketch artist software, and AFIS (Automated Fingerprint Identification System). AFIS uses computers and scanners to electronically transmit fingerprint images and search remote databases, such as the GBI database, for the purpose of identifying unknown latent prints.
Not all sunshine and rosesJenkins admitted crime scene work can exact a mental toll on the investigators.“I’m not real cynical,” Jenkins said. “But there are bad people out there and you better be aware of it.”“We’re real upfront about what this job entails. You have to be able to interpret the crime scene and move forward,” Jenkins said.
Technicians often rely on each other to deal with the difficult aspects of their job, Jenkins explained.
“The scenes are hard and the hours are hard. We’re a real good support group. You can always talk to your co-workers,” she said.
Despite the difficulties inherent with the job, Jenkins noted that crime scene work has its rewards.
“When we go to trial and our testimony helps convict somebody, that is very satisfying,” Jenkins said. “You can see where your long hours and hard work paid off. I enjoy it. It’s always different. I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do.”
By Kristi Reed
BUFORD – A local businessman hopes to raise $130,000 for a sculpture to commemorate the city’s craftsmen and artists, both past and present.
Long before the city’s current artist colony existed, many skilled artisans called Buford home. Bona Allen, Inc., a leather goods company, employed such talented craftsmen that even Hollywood took notice.
Beginning in the 1930s, Hollywood cowboys would bring their horses to Buford to have them custom fitted with Bona Allen saddles. Audie Murphy, Congressional Medal of Honor winner turned Hollywood cowboy, had a Bona Allen saddle. Even Pa, Hoss, and Little Joe Cartwright of the TV show “Bonanza” rode the fictional Ponderosa on Bona Allen saddles.
Perhaps, the most famous of all Hollywood cowboys, Roy Rogers, traveled to Buford in the late 1940s to have his equally famous horse, Trigger, fitted with a Bona Allen saddle.
Local artist Vic McCallum commemorated that visit in a sculpture. The sculpture depicts John Johnson, the last living Bona Allen saddle maker, presenting Roy Rogers and Trigger with their custom Bona Allen saddle.
“I thought it was a pretty fascinating story,” McCallum said. “It illustrates the past and what a rich history [Buford] has.”
McCallum says he enjoys telling stories with his sculptures.
“There’s a lot of history here that people just aren’t aware of,” McCallum said. “The reason Buford is here is because of Bona Allen. The families here worked [at the factory] for generations. Their whole lives revolved around Bona Allen.”
Don Arsenault, owner of the Historic Buford Antique Market, was inspired by McCallum’s work and his two-foot-tall sculpture of Roy Rogers and Trigger.
“I was intrigued by [the Rogers statue],” Arsenault said. “I thought ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be great to have a life-sized statue made of it.”
Arsenault set up a non-profit group to collect funds to build the monument. If the drive for funds is successful, the life-sized bronze statue would be located in a park across from the old Bona Allen factory.
The fund-raising effort has resulted in pledges of approximately $15,000. In March, a fundraiser will be held at the Bona Allen mansion. A silent auction will include works contributed by local artists. The event will also feature a display of Roy Rogers memorabilia and a Bona Allen saddle owned by Audie Murphy.
Money is also being raised through the sale of brick pavers that will line the walkway to the statue and the area around its base. Memorial pavers are being sold for $50 each.
At an estimated cost of $130,000, the statue is no small project. However, Arsenault is undaunted by the task.
“It is a big undertaking, but not like the [restoration],” Arsenault said.
The restoration was a three-year, $3.5 million project to refurbish the Bona Allen factory buildings. Arsenault and a group of investors completed the restoration in January of 2002.
“It was a labor of love,” Arsenault said.
Arsenault grew up in a factory town in Rhode Island. His hometown severely deteriorated when the local factory closed its doors. The town now stands marred by the ruins of the abandoned factory. “I didn’t want that to happen to Buford,” Arsenault said.
“I wanted to do something for the town. I found these old buildings and I got involved with a group and we [renovated] the entire facility. The investors are young and old people who wanted to preserve something.”
The 13-acre site on West Main Street has three brick buildings with over 115,000 square feet of floor space. It is home to the Buford Antique Market, which is operated by the parent company of the Lakewood Antique Show in Atlanta.
The Buford Antique Market celebrated its first anniversary in January. The market is open the third weekend of every month. Arsenault has plans to utilize the property more fully.
“My original idea was to make it another Tannery Row. My idea is to have other venues and turn it into a destination place that will be open six days a week,” Arsenault said.
The site is also home to the Museum of Main Street. The museum showcases memorabilia from the time when Buford was a factory town and two-thirds of the townspeople worked for Bona Allen.
Established in 1873, Bona Allen Inc. employed over 2,200 people in its heyday. The company remained the town’s main employer until the factory was closed in the late 1960s.
Arsenault believes Buford has a bright future and wants to preserve the town’s history. “When I retired and moved to North Georgia, I fell in love with Buford,” he said. “Buford is going through a metamorphosis. One day it will become a real destination place,” Arsenault said. “It’s a place where time has stood still. People haven’t discovered it yet.”
Book drives home safe driving message to local teensBy Kristi Reed
“It won’t happen to me.”
Too often parents and teenagers think that tragedy is something that happens to someone else.
Cpl. Bill Richardson of the Gwinnett County Police Department hopes to dispel that myth through a safe driving book he put together targeted at teen drivers.
Richardson created the “It Won’t Happen to Me” book in 2000 after Ashley Adkins, a Parkview High School graduate, approached him wanting to know what could be done to reduce the number of teen traffic fatalities.
Richardson decided a book would be most effective way to impress upon teens the importance of being conscientious drivers. He compiled a series of tragic stories that illustrate how motor vehicle accidents can happen to anyone.
“[The book is] something tangible that I can put in the kid’s hand that tells the story,” Richardson said.
The story told is a sad one. Page after page shows smiling teenagers whose lives were tragically cut short because of inexperience, mistakes, or simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
“It was a little more difficult project than I expected; it moves you,” Richardson said.
Of the 30 families Richardson initially contacted, 13 decided to share their stories in the hope that they could help prevent more teen deaths.
“[The parents] think it is a great idea. They hope it will make a difference.”
Barbara and Leo Dwyer chose to participate in the “It Won’t Happen to Me” project in the hope that some good can come out of their family’s tragedy. Their son Matthew, who died in a car crash, is featured in the book.
“We thought it was a fantastic idea and, if it would help one or two teens, it would be well worth it,” Leo Dwyer said. “I hope the book helps teenage drivers see how important it is to pay attention to what you’re doing.”
Matthew, a junior at Collins Hill High School, was killed in 1997 when his car ricocheted off a guardrail and into a stand of trees. The accident occurred only four miles from his home.
“He was messing with the CD player,” Barbara Dwyer said. Matthew’s two passengers survived the accident, but Matthew was killed instantly.
“As soon as you put a teenager in the car with another teenager, you have trouble,” Barbara Dwyer said. “Teenagers will be teenagers. They think they’re indestructible and that parents worry too much. Once they get behind the wheel they think: ‘Oh: I can handle this. I’m doing good.’ His last words to me were: ‘Don’t worry Mom, I’ll be fine.’
“I think you have to go directly and reach the teenagers themselves. The reality is not there for them. They need to see what their friends will see – the police coming to your house, going to the funeral, how overwhelming the situation is,” she explained.
Teenagers also need to understand the long-term affect their actions can have on friends and family, says Mrs. Dwyer.
“I have learned to live with pain,” she said. “You’re always looking for answers that will never be there. You have to find reasons to go on. I have to find reasons every day.”
Dwyer credits her faith with helping her cope with her loss.
“[God] is in control, he knows what he’s doing, and I just have to trust him,” she said. “I have a lot of faith and that has gotten me through. I can’t believe I’m surviving this, but yet you take it one step at a time and force yourself to keep going.”
Barbara Dwyer says parents must take an active role in emphasizing driving safety and be willing to enforce rules. She has always felt that the driving age should be changed to 18.
“Parents need to remember what they were like at 16 or 17,” she said.
“Make sure they’re driving carefully, drive with them quite often. You can’t just hand them the keys and let them go,” she said.
Over 17,000 copies of “It Won’t Happen to Me” are being distributed by the police department through local schools, courts, and youth groups. Richardson hopes the book will encourage teens to become safe and responsible drivers.
Richardson says the feedback from students, teachers, and parents has been excellent.
“It’s gone over great, very well received,” he said.
Richardson plans to update the book each year. He also plans to continue working to incorporate the book into driver’s education programs in area schools.
“It Won’t Happen to Me” is just one GCPD initiative aimed at preventing teen traffic fatalities. The GCPD Crime Prevention Unit also offers a teen safe driving program for groups of 10 or more participants. To request the “It Won’t Happen to Me” book along with a copy of Georgia’s new driver requirements, call 770 982-4440 ext. 35.
“I hope the kids are really reading it,” Barbara Dwyer said. “This does happen to kids every day. You can’t reach every child, but hopefully you can reach at least one.”
By Kristi Reed
DACULA – Former Dacula High School student Katy Howd will do something many musicians dream of, but few ever accomplish – play Carnegie Hall.
For over a century, musical greats such as Peter Tchaikovsky, George Gershwin, Yehudi Menuhin, Isaac Stern, and even The Beatles have graced the Carnegie Hall stage, one of the most famous music halls in the world.
Howd, a senior at Mercer University, will join that elite group of artists when she performs as part of the 2003 National Wind Ensemble on May 25. She is one of only 76 students nationwide to be awarded this honor.
Encouraged to audition by one of her music professors, Howd was selected based on her resume, letters of recommendation and an audition tape.
There is a saying that it takes some people a lifetime of practice to get to Carnegie Hall. It has taken Howd 12 years. A flute and piccolo player, she began her musical career at Dacula Middle School.
“I really enjoyed the sound of the flute. I started playing in sixth grade band and kept on playing,” Howd said.
Howd credits her Dacula Middle School band director with developing her love of music.
“Mr. Lavender was an excellent teacher,” Howd said. “He was such a joyous, boisterous man. He loved the students and encouraged all of us to continue on with music and make it part of our lives.”
Although Howd continued to play both flute and piccolo throughout high school, she entered Mercer as a Spanish major. Once there, a professor, who heard her play, advised her to major in music as well.
The professor’s advice was sound. Howd is the lead piccolo player at Mercer and also performs in the Mercer Wind Ensemble, the Macon Youth Symphony Orchestra, Mercer Flute Choir, and Mercer Woodwind Quartet.
As a music major, Howd is required to play several hours each day. Participating in the various ensembles and preparing for her Carnegie Hall performance takes additional practice. Howd does not mind the extra work though.
“I really enjoy my time with music,” Howd said.
In February, Howd will receive the performance piece she is expected to master for her Carnegie Hall debut. The week before the May 25 concert, Howd and the other members of the National Wind Ensemble will play this piece in an audition to determine chair placement.
A panel of judges will evaluate each musician. The best performer gets the best chair placement.
Chair placement is a matter of prestige, Howd explained. Top musical performers are identified by their place on stage. According to Howd, the best players in a group are usually seated right to left, but that can vary with certain groups.
No matter what her chair placement, Howd is excited about performing at Carnegie Hall.
“I think it is going to be so much fun to play in Carnegie Hall; it’s an honor to do that,” Howd said. “We’re even going to get to practice in the hall.”
The trip to New York City won’t be all work and no play. Howd and her fellow musicians will have free time to tour the city and will be treated to a harbor cruise after their performance.
Howd says she is looking forward to meeting musicians from across the United States.
“It’s a wonderful way to end my senior year at Mercer,” Howd said.
Howd plans to continue her education with graduate studies in either music or Spanish. She believes she may combine both by attending Florida State University as a student in their Music of the Americas program.
Choosing between her two majors is difficult, Howd explained: “I love both of the areas I’ve studied. I love music and Spanish.”
Howd is confident she will find a career that will allow her to combine both subjects. She plans to follow the advice she gives to other aspiring musicians.
“If you love it and have passion for it, continue on and there will be a way to make it part of your life.”