Annual event draws 600 officers
by Alex McRae
Law enforcement officers with search dogs chased a pair of perpetrators through Newnan’s swankiest retail strip Tuesday morning as the 2013 Mantracker exercise opened for business at various locations across Coweta.
The scenario — which involved chasing fugitives from a staged bank robbery — was one of many simulations and scenarios to be held during the Mantracker program, which runs through Thursday.
Mantracker is organized annually by the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office and provides training events for law enforcement officers and K-9 search teams from across Georgia and nearby states.
This is the 20th year Mantracker has been held in Coweta County. The three-day event started as a program for the state Department of Corrections Fugitive Squad for tracking escaped felons. Budget cuts in the prison system caused the Coweta sheriff’s office to take over the program. It has continued to expand and this year an estimated 600 officers from several jurisdictions, mostly west Georgia, are registered. Officers from as far away as Tennessee and Alabama are involved.
Training programs for search dogs and trainers include scenarios covering detection of narcotics as well as tracking fugitives.
Drug training courses enable officers to identify new drugs just hitting the market and keep up to date with the latest in drug intervention training techniques. Several firearms training programs are offered, including combat shooting. Mantracker events are held at several locations but the event is centered at the Coweta County Fairgrounds.
Tuesday’s scenario of an armed bank robbery fugitive chase began at the Jim McGuffey Nature Center at the fairgrounds, where the “robbers” and “victims” of the bank robbery gathered to be briefed on the scenario.
The process began with all officers unloading their weapons, according to a “victim” at the scene. After Deputy Chief Rodney Riggs of the Newnan Police Department went over the scenario with everyone, the crowd was bused to a vacant building on Bullsboro Drive that once housed a bank.
The “victims” stood outside the bank and conducted imaginary financial chores until the two perpetrators showed up wearing ball caps and ski masks, pulled simulated Glock firearms painted a shocking blue and said “Stick ‘em up” and “Gimme all your dough.”
The victims complied and the “robbers” raced off with a bag of bogus cash. The bag also contained a GPS locator that allowed law enforcement officials to track the missing loot.
The “robbers” left in one car headed toward I-85. Shortly afterward, to help avoid pursuit, they “stole” a truck and continued driving through the area near Ashley Park retail center. Finally, the bad guys bailed out and fled on foot into the woods between Ashley Park and downtown Newnan. Lawmen, some aided by highly-skilled hounds, soon followed the pretend suspects through the briars and brambles as a helicopter floated overhead peeking for perps.
It didn’t take long for the good guys to prevail, although it was no walk in the woods. The GPS tracker in the money bag allowed pursuers to track the location of the money bag and whoever was carrying it, but during the chase the pair of robbers split up and those following the money electronically had no idea where the second suspect was located.
The man toting the bag was found by lawmen and dogs and was hauled to justice at the Newnan-Coweta Public Safety Training Center on Greison Trail. The other fugitive was found hiding in a law enforcement vehicle parked at the training center.
The exercise was a complete success and, in minutes, dogs, handlers and officers were off to another Mantracker session.