Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Georgia Patrol Assisting with More Auto Accidents; More Troopers Assigned to Port-Influenced Truck Traffic

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Georgia Patrol Assisting with More Auto Accidents; More Troopers Assigned to Port-Influenced Truck Traffic

Article excerpt

Byline: Walter C. Jones

ATLANTA | Troopers are untangling more automobile accidents as the Georgia State Patrol steps up emphasis on assisting local law-enforcement agencies.

"To me, they're a godsend," said Vidalia Police Chief Frank Waits, president of the Georgia Chiefs of Police.

Friday, as Waits was preparing for a crowd of 50,000 at next weekend's Vidalia Onion Festival and air show, he said he relies on the Georgia State Patrol as an auxiliary to his own force.

"They're nothing but a help to us," he said.

Last year, troopers took primary responsibility for paperwork and investigations at 51,521 accidents, a 17 percent increase from the previous year. Local deputy sheriffs or police officers may have been on hand directing traffic, but troopers were the on-scene quarterback.

That's a 28 percent increase in five years, according to a Times-Union analysis of state figures.

The workload of individual troopers increased as well, not just because there are more accidents to deal with but also because the force was reduced during recent years of tight budgets following the recession. While the number of wrecks processed rose, the trooper ranks shrank.

As a result, the average trooper is juggling 15 more wrecks per year, a 39 percent spike in workload since 2007. And not all officers are on the road. Some have administrative duties. Others protect state officials and facilities.

Last year, the average trooper responded to 66 accidents, a 15 percent jump from 2011.

The State Patrol's new commander, Col. Mark McDonough, is putting greater emphasis on responding to accidents in support of local law enforcement agencies. He argues that is the core mission of the agency, to help local officers.

"We should have a reputation for moving toward the work and not moving away from the work," he said.

Only this year, has the number of troopers nearly returned to its levels before budget cuts thinned it. …

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