By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Sheriff: Rise in crime due to growth
Plans to increase staffing will help, Brown says
W brown
Bulloch County Sheriff Noel Brown

Bulloch County Crime Statistics


➤ Total Cases

▲ 2017— 822 (207 cleared or solved)
▲ 2018 — 850 (180 cleared or solved)
➤ Robbery
▲ 2017 — 3
▲ 2018 — 7
➤ Aggravated assault
▲ 2017 — 27
▲ 2017 — 236
▲ 2018 — 262
➤ Burglaries
▲ 2017 — 107
▲ 2018 — 164
➤ Larceny thefts
▲ 2017 — 358
▲ 2018 — 400
➤ Motor vehicle thefts
▲ 2017 — 31
▲ 2018 — 43
➤ Total arrests
▲ 2017 — 65 juveniles
▲ 2018 — 136 juveniles 
▲ 2017 — 1,079 adults
▲ 2018 — 960 adults
➤ Total drug arrests
▲ 2017 — 103
▲ 2018 — 70
➤ Marijuana cases
▲ 2017 — 70
▲ 2018 — 41
➤ Methamphetamine cases
▲ 2017 — 27
▲ 2018 — 28
➤ Cocaine cases
▲ 2017 — 16
▲ 2018 — 32
➤ Heroin cases
▲ 2017 — 1
▲ 2018 — 4
➤ Schedule I drugs (such a LSD, GHB, Mescaline, Ecstasy)
▲ 2017 — 19
▲ 2018 — 7
➤ Schedule II drugs (such as oxycodone
fentanyl, methadone)
▲ 2017 — 14
▲ 2018 — 10
➤ Schedule III drugs (such as hydrocodone, codeine and steroids)
▲ 2017 — 4
▲ 2018 — 5
➤ Schedule IV drugs (such as Xanax, Soma, Klonapin)
▲ 2017 — 8
▲ 2018 — 9

Sheriff Noel Brown believes population and commercial growth, as well as staffing and societal changes, are some of the reasons certain crimes have risen in Bulloch County.

In comparing statistics from 2017 and 2018, records provided to the Statesboro Herald by Bulloch County Sheriff’s Capt. Todd Hutchens show an increase in criminal cases such as battery, assault, theft, robbery and burglary. The number of adults arrested dropped, but the number of juveniles arrested more than doubled. Drug case numbers declined, but changes in reporting these arrests, due to one investigator being detached to another agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration, means the numbers do not accurately reflect actual cases, Hutchens said.

Overall, the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office handled 822 criminal cases in 2017 and 850 in 2018. They solved or cleared 207 of the 2017 cases and 180 of the 2018 cases. Robbery cases more than doubled last year, with seven reported, compared to three the year before. Aggravated assault cases investigated dropped from 27 to 26, while simple assault cases rose to 262 from 236.

The number of burglaries also rose, from 107 in 2017 to 164 last year. Larceny thefts rose as well, from 358 in 2017 to 400 in 2018. The county also saw a rise in motor vehicle thefts; 43 last year, up from a 2017 figure of 31.

Brown said the crime increase can be attributed to growth.

“New businesses and subdivisions are all over the place,” he said. “I think as long as we continue to have steady growth in this county, you will probably see an increase in the crime rate.”

One of the most dramatic increases was the number of juvenile arrests.

There were a number of cases related to school threats, which rose nationwide after a couple of high-profile school shootings occurred. However, only a portion of the 136 juvenile arrests in Bulloch County can be linked to school threats. In 2017, there were only 65 juveniles arrested.

Brown offered a theory on the sharp increase of children 16 and younger being arrested.

“I believe we just have more people calling us for situations with their children,” he said. “In the past, parents would have handled a lot of these things “

In most juvenile calls, deputies make arrests, but most juveniles are returned to parents or guardians after booking, he said.

The total number of adult arrests in Bulloch County dropped from 1,079 in 2017 to 960 last year.

Drug cases

Last year, one of the Bulloch County Crime Suppression Team (CST) of investigators was detached to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) “to be a part of a unit that primarily investigates opioid cases,” said CST Capt. Jason Kearney. “For all of 2018, Inv. Marcus Nesmith was assigned to the DEA but he is now reassigned to the Crime Suppression Team.”

Brown said arrests Nesmith made while detached to the DEA unit were counted as arrests for that agency, not the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office.

Overall, Crime Suppression Team drug arrests dropped from 103 in 2017 to 70 in 2018, according to data provided to the Statesboro Herald by Kearney.

From 2017 to 2018, marijuana cases dropped from 70 to 41. Methamphetamine cases rose by one – from 27 to 28.

Cocaine cases rose sharply from 16 to 32, while heroin cases went up to four cases last year, over just one case in 2017.

Schedule I drug cases (which include LSD, GHB, mescaline and Ecstasy) dropped sharply from 19 to seven from 2017-2018.

Schedule II drug cases (pain pills such as oxycodone, methadone, and fentanyl) dropped from 14 to 10 cases, while numbers for Schedule III drugs (including medicines containing hydrocodone and codeine, or steroids and ketamine) rose from four cases to five.

Cases involving Schedule IV drugs such as Xanax, Soma, Klonapin, Valium and Ativan (muscle relaxers and anxiety medications) rose from eight to nine.

Other factors

Kearney said staffing changes such as promotions and transfers may also have had an effect on the number of drug cases handled in 2018.

“During the year 2017, the Crime Suppression Team operated mostly at full staff of five full time investigators,” he said. “Towards the end of 2017, we had a series of promotions and transfers that reduced our full-time staff.”

Inv. Ben Lienhard was promoted to the rank of captain and is currently in charge of the Sheriff’s Office Training Division. Inv. Mac Edwards resigned to accept employment with the Evans County Sheriff’s Office at the rank of lieutenant, and “Sheriff Brown detached Inv. Marcus Nesmith to the Drug Enforcement Administration to be a part of a unit that primarily investigates opioid cases,” he said. 

Nesmith was assigned to the DEA for the whole year in 2018 “but is now reassigned to the Crime Suppression Team.”

Having Nesmith work as a Bulloch County deputy assigned to the DEA was beneficial to the county. “During that year with DEA, Inv. Nesmith received valuable training and experience that will assist us with investigating crimes involving opioids,” Kearney said. 

Not all cases reported

While information is available for most drug cases, not all incidents are immediately made public

When cases involve federal charges, it is sometimes months before details are released, he said.

This means sometimes investigators are working on significant cases, but the public isn’t aware until the case reaches court or is resolved.

Last year, Nesmith was also involved in a federal case “that originated in Canada and Great Britain that involved an individual living in Bulloch County who was trafficking in illegal pills,” Kearney said. “Inv. Nesmith seized over four thousand pills (Xanax) and learned that the individual had plans to order up to 20,000 more and redistribute them here in Bulloch County”

Also during 2018, Lt. Jim Riggs and other members of the Crime Suppression Team began assisting the DEA and Georgia Bureau of Investigation with a methamphetamine case, which resulted in large amounts of methamphetamine being seized. About 20 people are being prosecuted at the federal level in this case, he said.

In May 2018, Inv. Clint Campbell and other CST investigators “concluded a six-month investigation regarding heroin and methamphetamine trafficking, which resulted in the arrest of three individuals.  This case made it the largest heroin seizure in Bulloch County’s history” with well over an ounce of heroin seized.

Still understaffed

Brown said he needs more deputies and investigators to handle the growth and crime increase in rapidly-expanding Bulloch County.

The shortage has been a problem for a while, even before he took office in 2017.

“I feel our staffing has not been adequate for years,” Brown said. “We have simply not kept up with the growth of the county.”

Bulloch is one of Georgia’s largest counties, geographically speaking, and during the course of responding to calls, “We have to run from one end of the county to the other to answer calls.”

With additional deputies, more time could be spent on patrol, he said.

Bulloch County has budgeted funds to phase in additional deputies each year in an effort to meet the growing needs.

Currently, the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office has about 70 certified law enforcement employees, including those in the Crime Suppression Team, Criminal Investigations Division, court services and transport officers, with 30 of those being road patrol deputies, Brown said.

Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter