MEIGS — Antonio Mango and Donald Mcneil feel a sense of welcome when wearing a police badge in Meigs.
Recently hired as full-time officers in Meigs' police department, the two have been welcomed "with open arms" by the City of Meigs, Mango said.
"Residents have told us it makes them feel safe when they see cars patrolling," he added.
A Meigs native, Mcneil said his biggest challenge is policing where he lives, "but so far, it's been welcoming."
Mango worked as a corrections officer at Macon State Prison for 14 years before joining the Meigs police force. Mcneil previously worked as a narcotics unit lieutenant for the Camilla Police Department, along with serving 11 years with the Department of Corrections.
Mango believes his experience will be "an asset to the City of Meigs." Mcneil plans to use his background in narcotics to address Meigs' drug problem, which was listed as a threat in the city's upcoming comprehensive plan.
Mcneil s narcotics experience, Mango noted, is a learning tool.
"He's been training me," he said.
Since the addition of Mango and Mcneil, the Meigs Police Department made four arrests within the past month. A total of 100 citations also were issued over a two-month period.
"We've been rolling," Mango said.
Two full-time officers also impacted the Meigs Police Department's incident response time.
If dispatched to Meigs, Thomas County Sheriff's Office's response time was 20 to 30 minutes. Response time for Meigs police now, Mango said, is two to five minutes, which "helps out a whole lot."
The two officers recently attended an intelligence briefing at the Jail Justice Center and Mcneil said the sheriff's office, much like the City of Meigs, offered a warm welcome. Mcneil also wants increased communication with Thomas County Sheriff's Office.
Community policing also is key for the Meigs Police Department. Mango said it's important to garner feedback from residents to stop and prevent crime.
"That's how we can rebuild this city," he added.
Mango and Mcneil's hiring was a "relief," said Meigs Police Chief Darrell Laster.
Laster believes the two will be an asset to the Meigs community.
"Their prior job experience is really, really going to help us here in Meigs," he added.
Laster said department goals are moving operations to 24/7, becoming state-certified and eventually nationally-certified, and hiring additional officers.
Reporter Jordan Barela can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1826.