WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — For a long time, crime and police staffing have been political issues in Warner Robins.
Now, in the middle of a mayoral runoff, the candidates again are talking about crime and punishment.
Mayoral candidates have different views on the current state of crime in Warner Robins. Mayor Randy Toms says it’s on a decline, while his challenger LaRhonda Patrick says it could use some work.
"A lot of things that people don’t understand about the crime rate in Warner Robins is they think they can read it in a magazine and take that for the truth and it’s just not the truth. l think the crime rate in Warner Robins is actually pretty low compared to some of the other cities that could have been prepared," Toms said.
"Crime is definitely at a space where we need to reel it in. It’s not as bad as it could be and it’s not as bad as people speculate it is, but if we're having the conversation, that means it’s bad enough that we need to address it, so proactive crime prevention is what I would recommend," Patrick said.
Both agree that staffing and retention in law enforcement could use some work.
"I’m very proud of our police department. There’s a lot of proactive things that our police department can’t do because it is difficult nowadays to get people into the law enforcement profession, so we're constantly working on that. I’ve added 20 positions in the last 8 years," Toms said.
"We’re losing officers to other cities, we're losing them to Georgia State Patrol, and the list goes on, so we have to deal with recruitment and retention. That’s going to help the staffing issue," Patrick said.
The crime issue has recently spilled over into campaigning.
Toms took out an ad that says Patrick wants to defund the police. He said that he has added at least 20 positions to the force.
"My opponent made the statement that some people would say that we need more police officers, and I don’t think that’s the answer. It’s pretty cut and dry to me. I think the answer is more police officers and my opponent thinks it’s not the answer," Toms said.
Patrick says it's just another example of Toms spreading misinformation, and as a prosecutor, her job is to defend the police.
"LaRhonda Patrick is for funding our police officers to the maximum amount of available resources and making sure they have every resource that they need to protect the safety of our community," Patrick said.
Early voting ends on Wednesday. There are two locations, the Houston County Board of Elections and the Houston County Healthcare Pavilion.