Fort Deposit Feels the Pinch of A Small Town Crime Spree

There are a lot of people upset in the Lowndes county town of Fort Deposit.

They're angry because they say criminals are taking over, carrying out a huge crime spree, and there's little police can do about it.

Some people say it's because Fort Deposit has just one full time police officer on duty, and that fact almost cost a store clerk his life.

It was 2:48 Thursday morning, and the clerk was making coffee and biscuits when the two men ran in.

The store surveillance video and the store manager tell the rest of the story.

"One stood at the door, and watched out. The other one had a gun, told him to go back there and get the money," said Manager Jan Newton.

"The one at the door told him to shoot him if he didn't go get it. Then, they fired off a shot in the store and then they left," she said.

Newton is furious because it's the second time robbers have hit her store. Worse, it happened while a police officer was working not too far away.

"The chief of police was at the Shell station, where they broke into it," she said.

Shell store clerk Terry Steiner explains what happened.

"They went in the back and tried to steal the ATM machine," said Steiner.

Police chief Ben Turner has served in Fort Deposit for three years, in that time, he says he's continually tried to hire officers, but no one applies.

He says Fort Deposit's city councilors want new hires to graduate first from the police academy, and then for a starting salary, they make just eleven dollars an hour, or about  twenty one thousand dollars a year.

Right now, Turner is the only full time officer, with three others working part time.

That's placed the town directly in the criminal crossfire.

"The Dollar Store was robbed for the fourth time at gunpoint last Sunday," said Jan Newton.  "It's not a big town, but we do have businesses here and they are in danger and we're losing money."

The victims and even the mayor say the criminals have figured out there's just one officer on duty, so if they call them to one location it leaves another vulnerable.

"They get on a two way radio and notify the other one where the police are at," said Terry Steiner.

The mayor says he's equally upset about the robberies, but that's little comfort to the clerk who felt cold steel at the back of his head.

"Is it going to take a death for them to do something?," asked Newton.

The store manager says her clerk was so upset about the robbery, he quit work the next day.

WSFA spoke with Fort Deposit mayor Fletcher Fountain Friday afternoon.

He says the city has advertised for police officers for the last two months and received no response.

As for the pay levels, he says Fort Deposit's starting salary is comparable to other towns the same size, and actually higher than some deputy sheriff's salaries.

In the meantime, Chief Turner is asking for help from the general public.

If you recognize either man in the store surveillance video, you're asked to call Fort Deposit police.