Critics and even some of Hill’s supporters say the self-proclaimed ‘crime fighter’ uses questionable, but effective tactics. When a Clayton County citizen complains of drug and gang activity in their community, Hill is known to forgo the formality of warrants, parking deputies outside the homes of private citizens his department suspects of criminality. This strategy is known as ‘bringing the heat, and Hill seems to have mastered it. His allies say he subscribes to ‘personal policing,” often patrolling the streets himself and giving direct orders on how to maneuver within criminal elements. It’s led to accusations that he colors outside of law enforcement norms, but within legal requirements. Still, those same critics admit the results are undeniable. There’s been a dramatic downturn in violent and nuisance crimes linked to gangs in Clayton County. Based on data from the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office, in the first seven months of 2020 burglaries declined 20%, robberies 10%. The homicide rate was down more than 8%. A trend not seen in neighboring counties. Even some of the gang members Hill has arrested agree – his approach is working. The question is – does he go too far?
“If he know something ain’t right with a certain person and, he know they doing this or doing that and got s*** going on ..And he got, say he got a tip from somebody. He gonna make s*** happen. He gonna make sure these mutha f****** get the f*** on.”
The words of one admitted gang member, who’s been arrested more than 5 times in Clayton County ironically calls Hill – notorious. In a rare move, a member of the Gangsta Disciples agreed to talk about Sheriff Hill … as long as he was not identified. He says fellow “G.D’s”, Crips and Bloods began waving the white flag and moving on from Clayton County earlier this year.
“He did what he had to do to calm this s*** down. You don’t really hear too much s*** about Clayton County like that no more. He moves the way he moves. And it’s helpful.”
The mass exodus can be traced to mid April – after the murder of 7 year old Gabriel Vasquez. The little boy was inside a home playing, when he was hit by a stray bullet during a shootout. Three days later Sheriff Hill declared a public war on gang members remaining on his turf. He called it Operation Gabriel and, at the time said, “Every wannabe gangster in a 5 mile radius of where the child was killed will feel the wrath of the Sheriff’s Office until someone tells us who is responsible for this.” More than 500 arrests were made in the 3 weeks that followed. Including, Shunderrious Bankston, who investigators said was linked to the shooting. The sheriff’s office publicly displayed guns and cash seized during the crackdown.
But Hill’s “wrath” continued throughout the summer.
“By any means necessary. He could go get a warrant. It’s him being him. No matter how he do it. It’s running em off.”
While he’s dogged in his pursuit of criminals, Hill won’t grant interviews to the media. Instead, his direct-to-market practice of engaging face to face with residents seems to keep him in public favor. Cash payments help too. Hill personally hands out money during the holiday season. He has celebrity backers too. He posts regularly on the Clayton County Sheriff’s official Facebook page with the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and actor Woody Harrelson. Business owners have spoken up in support of the sheriff as well, acknowledging that a double-digit dip in crime is good for their bottom line. So good, there is speculation that some entrepreneurs may consider relocating to Clayton County from Fulton and Dekalb. The domino effect of that might force other jurisdictions to consider adopting portions of Hill’s blueprint for the war on gangs. So his wrath may continue, indefinitely.
Asked what he would tell a young Gangsta Disciple, our source put it bluntly “I’d tell em to chill the f*** out.”