THOMASVILLE — Thomas County is a leader in a number of areas, and one of those areas, said a Thomas County law enforcement officer, is in child victims' reporting of sex crimes.
A juvenile recently reported to officials at his school that a man exposed himself to him when the boy was in third grade. The incident took place a couple of years ago, said Lt. Tim Watkins, Thomas County Sheriff's Office chief investigator.
The boy underwent a forensic interview at The Treehouse Advocacy Center for Children.
"The child was specific about what had happened to him," Watkins said.
The boy named James Caldwell, 42, as the offender. The child reported the incident to a school counselor.
"We found (Mr.) Caldwell and interviewed him," Watkins said. "He admitted to exposing himself to the child."
Caldwell, a Thomas County resident, was arrested Monday. The incident took place at a Boston residence.
Watkins said the suspect was convicted in 1998 of enticing a child for indecent purposes and placed on the sex offender registry.
Young Thomas County victims are reporting the incidents to school officials, including school resource officers.
"The children feel comfortable talking to them," Watkins said. "We get a lot of the reports from schools."
Students in the Thomas County school system are told about inappropriate touching, said Superintendent Dr. Lisa Williams.
A school system therapist adds another person a child can report an incident to, Williams said.
"It adds more support and more people for students to talk to and feel comfortable with," she said.
Some county school students report the crime to teachers, in addition to counselors and school resource officers.
Williams said the county school system has a climate that makes students feel comfortable about reporting the crimes.
In the Thomasville City school system, student victims usually report such crimes to counselors.
"Every adult in the building is a mandated reporter," said Superintendent Laine Reichert.
All employees, including cafeteria and clerical personnel and bus drivers, undergo mandated reporter training.
School system protocol is followed after a sex-related crime is reported by a child, Reichert said.
Senior reporter Patti Dozier can be reached at (229) 226-2400, ext. 1820