Chief Broadhead Talks Crime in Statesboro, Problematic Apartment Complexes

In light of the uptick in incidents, particularly those involving firearms, in some areas of Statesboro, TheGeorgiaVirtue reached out to Statesboro Police Chief Mike Broadhead to discuss crime trends and what the Statesboro Police Department is doing to combat the issues. 

Broadhead spoke at length about crime prevention, the responsibilities of management companies of some of the apartment complexes, the reinstitution of the Impact Team, the uptick in young males carrying firearms, Stop & Frisk, how crime is prosecuted, and whether the PD is ‘tough on crime.’

On the issue of crime rates

Broadhead prefaced that statistics aren’t a sufficient way to measure crime. “I don’t ever want to be so impersonal about crime that we make it purely about statistics because that’s just not reality,” he said. 

“I don’t like to look at statistics, although we do, in short sample sizes because our numbers are generally so small that small fluctuations make big differences. So I look over a decade or so.”

He referenced the 2023 crime report which showed that Aggravated Assaults are mostly flat, robberies have been trending down, and homicides have remained steady, with the exception of 2020. Rapes, he said, are likely not reflected accurately due to many often going unreported. 

Is crime up or down or the same?

“Crime is a really complex thing and you have to look on a case-by-case basis. From a police perspective, any crime is too much crime, but we also have to look at crime as a relative thing. If you come from the southeast side of Chicago, you’re going to think there’s no crime here. If you have lived here your whole life and seen the changes in population and changes in crime, then I think that it looks like we’re crime ridden so I really do think that it’s one of those things that’s in the eye of the beholder.”

“From my perspective, what I’m really concerned about is that we have a lot of young men carrying guns and things that are generally petty disputes are erupting into gunfire which is completely out of scale to what the issues are. Trying to make sure that we find ways to intervene in that or interrupt that process, that’s been a real challenge.” 

Are there more people with nefarious intentions in Statesboro than 5-8 years ago?

Not necessarily. Broadhead referenced the Pine and Gordon Street areas prior to the renewal efforts and the gatherings of 100+ individuals that were resulting in criminal activity.

“As far as bad actors go? Yeah, I think there are more bad actors in town,” he said. When it comes to juvenile issues, those are local to Statesboro, but as the ages of the offenders tick up, they are more likely to be from out of town.

Is the crime gang-related?

“Some of these guys are gangsters. We don’t really have…gangs have changed a lot. You don’t see guys having turf wars over street corners anymore. Some of that is due to, I think, Georgia has a really good gang prosecution statute and the gangsters figured it out. What we do find though is that these are groups of loose associates that you could define as a gang but trying to prosecute them as a gang becomes difficult to show that tie. Because you have to show that not only they’re a gang – not just friends – but also the crime was to further the gang’s activities. We’ve had some challenges and we have turned some cases over to the DA’s office for prosecution.” 

“Violent crime is being driven by people who are associated with each other. Stuff like what’s happening at The Vault, we know that the kid who was shot a few weeks ago, that was a dispute over a girl. These people all know each other but is it really gang related?”

He said gangsters have gotten better about not tattooing themselves and not wearing colors because they don’t want those statutes used against them.

“Most of our stuff is being driven by young people who would be in that age group, lots of juvenile stuff.”

Copper Beach, The Vault, and Problematic Housing Complexes

“Multifamily housing is always an issue because population density is a problem,” Broadhead said. “There are two things that drive calls for service, not crime necessarily, but maybe some of the criminal behavior you’re talking about: socioeconomic level and density. And those two things go together.”

Broadhead said the way to combat the issues is simple: 

  • control access to the property (for pedestrians and vehicles), 
  • install cameras with overt notice letting everyone know about the presence of those cameras,
  • Proper lighting 
  • Good screening of residences by management with a zero tolerance policy toward overt drugs, overt gang activity, crime on the property.

“And I would say in some of these apartment complexes, none of these things are happening.”

The Vault, he said, is low-income housing for the Statesboro community right now. “There’s no perimeter fence. Anybody can walk in there or drive in there and people do. So you have all these comings and goings of people who have no connection to the property other than they’re looking for a drug dealer or something like that.”

Broadhead pointed to statistics on The Vault from January 1, 2024 through the end of April 2024. The report showed 242 ‘events’ for the complex, of which 115 were officer-initiated location checks in an effort to be seen.

“More than half of this stuff is the police being proactive. But, there’s two aggravated assaults, but that’s it for the year so far. So if you look at most of this stuff, most of it’s fairly mundane apartment living stuff. Trespass, noise, entering auto. Though there were seven gunshot incidents detected there. These are mostly guys shooting up in the air. That’s certainly a dangerous situation, but that’s something that management is clearly going to have to find some way to address. But I think if you have those things we talked about, these things don’t happen there.”

He referenced Axis Student Living, which was previously named ‘Campus Crossing,’ but had been donned ‘Campus Crossfire’ because of all the gun incidents there. “We have almost no calls for service there anymore. They put up a fence, they put up a gate, they put in cameras, and they started screening their clients better,” he said. “And it works.”

The Statesboro Police Department provided site studies for Cambridge Palms, Cambridge Pines, and Copper Beach – which are all owned by the same management company, in March 2024 for the purposes of making recommendations to improve safety and security of the complexes. Prior to the March 2024 evaluations, SPD provided surveys on the complexes in 2019-2020 and for The Vault in 2022. The recommendations have not yet been implemented. Beyond that, SPD has gone directly to management to explicitly request they make changes, but no such changes have been made.

“Not to defend these properties, but Pines – 550 some beds. Palms – 550 some beds. Vault – 500 beds. Copper Beach – 1,100 beds. That’s a lot of people living in a relatively small space and it’s when you have violent upticks that something abrupt needs to happen and almost all of that is on the management,” Broadhead said.

He lamented that the apartment complexes, which are often times owned by out of town investment companies with no ties to the community, are sometimes working against the efforts of the police department. They’re trying to get a return on investment, irrespective of the impact on the community.

“They’re interested in making money and putting up a fence costs money, putting in cameras costs money. They want heads in beds.”

Note – This week, the Statesboro City Council said they would make grant money available for the apartment complexes to utilize for these investments.

On Proactive Policing 

“If a guy is intent on shooting a gun off and police are in the parking lot, he’s probably not going to do it but that doesn’t mean he won’t do it ten minutes later. Police presence serves a purpose but it’s not all there is to stopping crime,” Broadhead said.

Crime prevention, however, he said is difficult to measure because you can’t measure what doesn’t happen.

On whether or not the PD can have a ‘show of force’ in problem areas by offering a heavier police presence, Broadhead said “the issue is providing service to people at a level that they are willing to accept,” which is the foundation of community policing. “We can do short term operations all the time. The question is ‘Does that have a long term impact?’ and I’ve not ever seen that to be the case.”

“I don’t think you can be at war with your community. Without community buy in, there is no point to having a police department. If everybody decided they weren’t going to stop for the police, we’re out of business. We need some level of compliance and I think you get that from interacting with people in non-enforcement ways.”

But Broadhead said the dichotomy between a relationship with the public and policing is not a shallow issue.

“I’m also a believer that jail is an effective component, the judicial system is an effective component. There are people who are dangerous or who have lost their right to interact with the rest of us who are just trying to live our lives. But I don’t want people to be afraid of the police. Can you imagine living in a community where you’re so afraid of the police that the first thing you do when you step out your door is look for the police? Not because you’ve done anything wrong but because the cops are going to jack you up as soon as you hit the street. That’s not a good quality of life or community, either. There needs to be a balance.”

Is SPD Tough on Crime?

“I do think we’re tough on crime and I know that there is some criticism, I hear it out there, but in the Ogeechee Circuit, we make more felony arrests than any other agency in the circuit,” Broadhead said. He said the DA’s office has told him that the agency prepares the best cases for court in the Ogeechee Circuit. 

He cited the large investment into Flock cameras, Fusus Video Sharing, and detectors for gunshots. “Those are all anti-crime devices. This is not about community policing or meeting people and having coffee. This is about fighting crime and those are tools that make us more effective at what we do.”

“Are we out kicking people’s behinds on the street? No, because that’s not how I want us to police. Are we out arresting people? Yeah, a lot of people,” he said.

What do you do about the young men who are carrying weapons?

“For some people, carrying a gun is not illegal. I refer to some guns as ‘illegal guns.’ There are people who are prohibited from owning/possessing firearms, there are guns that have been altered, guns used in crimes, or stolen guns. That’s where we need to try to intervene: to try to get illegal guns off the street. That, oftentimes, is connected to drug investigations because those things tend to go together.”

Broadhead said getting ‘illegal guns’ off the street keeps all of us safer, so he is determined to equip his officers with the training and direction to get those guns off the street in a legal way.

Stop & Frisk Policy

Lobbying for a More Stringent Sentencing Recommendation for Illegal Guns

Broadhead said would like to see the district attorney’s office establish a policy for mandatory minimum sentencing for individuals caught with the illegal guns he referenced. 

“I don’t want those plea bargained away. I want those to have a minimum sentence. I think our DA’s office could take the position that they’re not going to plea bargain any illegal gun – as we defined it – to any less than two years and two days. I want people to have a unique number that they’re going to talk about. I want them to share it and I want people to know if you get caught with an illegal gun in Statesboro, you’re going to do two years and two days in prison. I think that would send the right message. You want to talk about being tough on crime – we’re doing all we can to arrest people, what we need is the entire system to be tough on crime.”

Impact Team

The Statesboro PD’s Impact Team, which was once dedicated to cracking down on drug activity and its tangential crimes, has been defunct for at least a year and a half. Broadhead said it was due to staffing issues and, as a result, the police department has not been able to work proactive ‘guns and drugs’ cases. It’s negatively impacted the effectiveness of the PD, too.

“I think it’s a tool that we use to try to fight back,” Broadhead said. “There are things that the Impact Team is able to do to disrupt some of that behavior and try to displace it someplace else. We want to displace it to somewhere where they’re less afraid of being caught…It at least forces people to be afraid that they’re going to be arrested for their criminal behavior.”

Now that staffing is on the upswing, the Impact Team is set to return by the end of the year. Ideally, the team will include two uniformed officers, two plainclothes officers, two K9 officers, and a sergeant – making a team double in size from its operation before. Broadhead said the patrol component will add people who are actively trying to prevent street crime.

SPD will also be placing someone with the GBI Regional Drug Task Force with the hope of coordinating efforts with the Impact Team.

“I feel like there’s an intel piece we’re missing about the bigger drug picture in the region,” he said. The goal will be to intercept the drugs before they ever make it to Statesboro. 

Resolving Staffing Issues

After many years of requests, the Statesboro City Council finally approved pay increases for officers along with signing bonuses for new hires. For a lengthy period of time, the PD was 25-26 officer short operationally and exit interviews, time and time again, showed the issue was pay. The agency averages about 43,000 calls for service every year.

“The workload was too high, the tempo was too high, for the amount of money we paid,” Broadhead said. “We were the lowest paid agency around. Claxton was starting at a higher rate than us for a while.”

The pay was corrected, he said, in January 2024 and he’s optimistic about the impact the increase is already having. As of the first week in May, the agency is short ten officers with a handful in the pipeline for start dates. 

The Public’s Perception of the Police Department 

“Generally speaking, we have an incredibly supportive community of police. They’re not very loud, but they are certainly very supportive of what we’re doing.”

Broadhead said the best way the public can support the police, though, is to serve as good witnesses, to work with the police when they’re conducting investigations, and avoid turning their backs on the police when they’re working in the community.

Jessica Szilagyi

Jessica Szilagyi is Publisher of TGV News. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement and corrections. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia.

Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and co-creator of of the Peabody Award-nominated podcast 'Prison Town.'

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1 Comment

  1. This the same lame chief that kneeled for BLM? All he does is make excuses.

    I’ve lived here for more than 30 years. Crime is out of control and continues to get worse in the city.

    And no one wants to say the quiet part out loud, the uptick in crime is mostly commited by black males.

    Ain’t that why ol’ chief don’t like statistics?

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