EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - After months of back and forth deliberations, Guyton Fire has officially merged with the Effingham County Fire Department.
One of the main reasons for the consolidation was the lack of staff members at the Guyton Fire Department. Now, residents are seeing the same issue at the Guyton Police Department.
Compared to departments like Savannah, which has around 500 officers, Guyton has only one officer. The mayor admits that the current system they have is not working. Thankfully, Effingham County Sheriff’s Office is picking up some of the slack.
Residents like Wilbert Green go by the the Guyton police station and are shocked at what they find.
“I come to the police station, and no police," said Guyton resident, Wilbert Green.
Green left the department after finding it locked with a sign to call dispatch.
Mayor Jeff Lariscy said the department hasn’t been a 24-hour department in some time.
“We were down to two officers. We are down to one now. We had one resign just the other day. It’s down to the interim chief. He’s working by himself at this point,” Mayor Lariscy said.
When residents like Green call dispatch, they offer an Effingham County deputy to come out and help. Numbers show the same trend.
According to the E-911 center, GPD responded to nearly 3,000 calls since January, this includes fire and EMS calls. The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office said deputies responded to nearly 1,000 calls in the Guyton jurisdiction in the same time period.
“I’m not sure the citizens of Guyton are being well-served by the department in it’s current state,” Lariscy said.
Just last month, drama hit the department. The mayor wanted the interim chief, Joseph Coppola, removed, but city council did not. In a special city council meeting, leaders discussed a bodycam video where Coppola talks about finding ‘a blunt’ at a scene, but the incident report filed said no drugs were found.
“I think that’s the first step in this process is to get someone in leadership here that can build that department back the way it needs to be,” Lariscy said.
Green agrees that the city must do something - soon.
“I think this why they need change. Big changes need to be made in Guyton,” Green said.
There is no offer on the table for Guyton to get rid of their police services and rely only on Effingham County Sheriff’s Office, but the sheriff’s office tells WTOC if that were to happen, they could do it.