Sugar Hill beefs up sheriff deputy patrols

SUGAR HILL - Residents of Sugar Hill will soon see law enforcement officers patrolling the streets in cars marked with the city's logo.

Sugar Hill isn't getting a police department - voters in February denied a referendum to create such an entity - but the City Council agreed this week to enter into a contract with the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department to beef up patrols within the city's limits.

This isn't a new concept. For years, the city had a contract with the Gwinnett County Police Department to patrol the area more frequently during certain hours, said Marc Cohen, a city councilman. That contract expired Feb. 1, and the county police department is just performing general patrols in the area.

Cohen said the Gwinnett County police did a great job of protecting the city, but the Council decided not to renew the contract because the Police Department wanted to raise its rates. Creating a city police department wasn't an option, so officials looked to another law enforcement agency for service, he said.

Under this new contract, the Sheriff's Department will dedicate deputies to patrol the city, and Sugar Hill will purchase marked patrol cars for their use.

The city will use money from an existing special purpose local option sales tax to purchase the infrastructure - patrol cars and related equipment - the deputies will use, Cohen said. The budget contains the money the city needs for the staffing costs.

Cohen said the agreement is a good thing for the city, and he thinks the Sugar Hill patrol cars will build community pride.

"This is not a high crime area," Cohen said. "The only way to not become a high crime area is to have a deterrent. And you have to have a deterrent with teeth. The Gwinnett County Police Department, the Sheriff's Office, those are deterrents with teeth."

Don Kelemen, the city's community relations director, said the agreement was made simply to ensure the security of residents, not to create speed traps or hand out tickets.

"There's not a lot of police activity here ... (but with this contract) we have something that really gives a sense of security," Kelemen said. "This is a win for everyone."