Since the Forsyth Police Department became fully staffed within the last year, one benefit has been the department has been able to assign Officer Jeremy Malone to Code Enforcement. This is the responsibility for enforcing the city’s ordinances, which deal with making the city an appealing and pleasant place to live and visit.
A code enforcement officer deals with dilapidated buildings to overgrown and trashy yards to barking dogs. The officer may find that he can help a property owner with a situation the owner would really like to remedy. The officer may find a dispute between neighbors, or he may find himself chasing a paper trail to find an absentee owner. And sometimes he finds that a code violation reflects more serious safety concerns and other issues.
Malone said he began tackling Forsyth’s code enforcement as part of his duties about a year ago and became the city’s full time code enforcement officer in about May. His position on the Forsyth Police force also carries a variety of other duties. To be able to enforce the city’s ordinances, Malone has spent a lot of time studying what those ordinances are. He has also spent a lot of time traveling the streets of Forsyth and observing potential violations of the city’s codes.
One of the first differences he has been able to make is getting abandoned/inoperable vehicles off the streets. He said there were seven junk cars belonging to about five different owners parked on one street that was only a few hundred yards long. He was able to get all of the cars moved. In fact, Malone said he has been successful in getting vehicles taken care of with everyone he has contacted about them.
Malone said some owners of junk cars have been happy to learn there are companies that will pay them $200 for the cars and take them away. Others have been willing to buy a cover for the car to improve its appearance. Some owners just needed a reality check that the car they thought they would get around to fixing one day was past the point of fixing. He points out the safety issues caused by abandoned cars.
“We want to maintain a good relationship with citizens,” said Malone. “I give them time and let people figure it out.”
Malone said he will give someone in violation of an ordinance a time line. If they ask for two weeks to cut grass or clean up a yard, he may give them a month. But then he expects it to be done when he follows up, and the next step may be a citation.
“I try to take a lot of things into consideration,” he said. “Unfortunately in my profession, people lie a lot.”
He has contacted owners of 20-25 properties in the city, including residences, commercial properties and open lots, and is working with them on improvements. He encourages neighbors and other citizens to call the police department and talk to him if they are concerned about a property. It may be one he is already working on or it may be one that needs his attention.
Malone said he will handle as many issues as are brought to him. He said technically he could write citations daily when situations aren’t corrected, but his policy is to be patient with anyone who is sincerely working to take care of a problem.
Cleaning up a blighted property can be a lengthy process, one that can take several years. Therefore, Malone is proactive rather than waiting for complaints. For example, he tries to explain to property owners that uncut grass is more than an appearance issue; it can harbor snakes and rodents that lower the quality of life for everyone in a neighborhood. He said appearances are secondary to grounds and buildings being safe and structurally sound.
As a law enforcement officer, he is always alert to red flags. He has entered unkempt yards and realized that children, pets, elderly or disabled citizens were living in unsanitary conditions. When it is a child, he contacts Monroe County Department of Family & Children Services (DFCS) and it makes a decision. When dogs are involved, he works with Monroe County Animal Control. He said both agencies are very responsive.
Malone said city ordinances define barking over 30 minutes as a nuisance. He tells dog owners they can bring their pet inside or buy a barking collar, but they don’t have the right to keep their neighbor awake or annoy him. A citizen can’t build a fire and let the smoke cause a problem for neighbors.
“If you live in the city, you have to be aware of other people’s space,” said Malone. “It’s a luxury to live in a city, and this city is really amazing.”
Malone, who spent 10 years working in law enforcement in Macon before joining the Forsyth Police Department in April 2019, said he feels much more appreciated by citizens of Forsyth and hopes those in Forsyth know what an all around good city they have.
Malone is responsible for vehicle maintenance for the Forsyth Police Department, which has about 24 patrol, detective and administrative vehicles. He takes sure of tags, insurance, preventive maintenance, etc.
“We have to make sure everything is ready to go,” he said.
He works with the federal program that makes surplus equipment, like weapons, ammunition, gear and vehicles, available to local law enforcement, and he provides other support services for the Forsyth Police Department. He patrols when needed, which combines well with looking for code violations.
Malone provides security for the Forsyth Municipal Court, which hears cases about twice monthly. Currently that includes a lot of precautions needed because of COVID-19, from limiting the number of people in the courtroom to providing masks and disposable pens and wiping down the podium with disinfectant between each speaker.
He said the court staff has done a good job of catching up a backlog of cases that grew to about 400 while courts were cancelled during the spring. Malone is also responsible for transporting defendants from jail to court.
One of Malone’s other duties is advising Neighborhood Watch programs. He said citizens must take the lead in the programs, and it’s hard to keep the programs active when crime is under control. He has worked with neighbors in the Ensign Road/Country Club Drive and Betsy Lynn subdivisions on organizing Neighborhood Watches. Anyone interested in a Neighborhood Watch program is encouraged to contact him.