In today's world, everyone is a "specialist." There are doctors who only do high risk spinal surgery, attorneys who only handle complicated real estate transactions, mechanics who only work on John Deere tractors , and veterinarians whose only patients are horses.
On Plantations, we sometimes use all of the above but regularly employ "specialists" such as foresters to manage our timber, farmers to plant our crops, dog handlers to work our bird dogs, trainers for our retrievers and on and on.
With all the "experts" we have at Tall Timbers, we learned years ago that the one thing that Plantation folks shouldn't be messing with is the potentially dangerous and high liability area of trying to handle trespassers, poachers and other rogues who exhibit aberrant behavior. During the early years, Plantation Owners expected their Managers to be "jacks of all trades." Managers and other employees were expected to jump up in the middle of the night when they heard gunshots or saw strange lights on the property and then to get up early to lead a hunting party the next morning at daylight. Some owners used to have their farmers serve duty as "fence rider or warden" during the winter months. The duties of Managers became more complicated and time consuming over the years, and they became far too valuable to be spending all night chasing gun shots. No one gave a second thought to the fact that most managers and farmers, although good woodsmen, had no formal security, enforcement or legal training or that they were not licensed or bonded to perform such duty. And, what if they got hurt or (worse yet) hurt someone else while confronting a poacher? Lawsuits? Nah, not in those days! Besides, Plantations pay a lot of tax dollars for Government services, right? Sheriffs in the South Georgia/North Florida Plantation Community are very supportive of Plantations, but they are woefully understaffed. Sheriffs Offices are typically so busy handling routine complaints and trying to solve urban crime that they no longer have the luxury of providing preventative patrols to urban communities, much less to rural Plantations. With limited budgets and 40-hour work-weeks, it is not unusual to have one Deputy on duty to respond to calls in an entire county. State Game Wardens are even fewer, and their focus is mostly devoted to enforcing "revenue generating license" violations and catching people shooting over bait or with too many birds. This, of course is their job, but keeping trespassers off of or providing security to Plantations is rarely a priority with them. In a post 9/11 world, we all learned that even the most sacrosanct of places is vulnerable to unforeseen threats and tragedy. Most of the younger Plantation generation doesn't know about the siege that the Plantation Community went through not so long ago. There are still a number of us "old folks" around who remember the notorious "Plantation Burglary Ring". For several years in the late 1960's and early 70's, this organized gang of rogues broke into numerous lodges and "Big Houses" in Leon, Jefferson, Thomas, Grady and Brooks Counties. They stole hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of original paintings, silver, china, custom-engraved shotguns, outboard motors, cases of liquor and ammunition, wine and personal heirlooms. Some Big Houses were "hit" a second time. The gang appeared to strike at-will. Either they seemed to always know which Houses had law enforcement stakeouts, or they were awfully lucky. Those of us residing in the Plantation Community were on constant alert, afraid to leave our homes or sleep at night. During this same 1960's-70's era, aside from the everyday "poacher/trespassers," there was also an organized gang of modern day "market hunters" in the same counties. These bandits were plundering plantations, tearing down gates and killing deer, turkeys, ducks and trapping quail, all of which were sold on the Black Market. It was not unheard of for a Plantation Shooting Party to have a frightening encounter with a truck-load of liquored up rogues.
To cope with this "market hunting" madness that was rapidly spreading throughout the Southeast, the Florida Game & Fresh Water Fish Commission started an Investigations program to deal with market hunting. Major Alan Lamarche, the founder and CEO of Plantation Security Inc, became the first Investigations Supervisor of the new program and was assigned to the "Plantation Market Hunting Case." Alan and I had attended FSU at the same time on Athletic Scholarships.
He played football and I played baseball and we knew each other in passing. In 1980, when Alan started PSI, I met Alan as a "professional" for the first time. He told me then about The Investigation. Alan and his assistant Investigator were able to infiltrate the Market Hunting Gang and gain the trust of its leader (nicknamed "Boss") and the members. They witnessed the nightly slaughter of deer and daily trapping of quail, shooting of turkeys off the roost and ducks from Plantation duck ponds. In time, they learned of the market hunter's association and ties to the Plantation Burglary Ring. Alan discovered that the market hunters (who kept up with the whereabouts of owners, managers and other employees), were giving "inside" information to the burglars in exchange for stolen liquor, ammunition, guns and other booty. He found out that the head of the burglary ring (nicknamed by the gang as "Super Crook") had a gang member who was a pilot who regularly flew Super Crook over the Plantations so he could case the targets and plan his entry and escape routes. The investigation revealed that Super Crook was fencing some of the most valuable items to distant markets and that he had a "camp house" on the Suwanee River where it was suspected that the remainder of the stolen property might be stashed.
Meanwhile, Alan built cases against the Market hunting Gang members for killing a multitude of game and selling deer, quail, turkey, ducks and alligators to a commercial establishment in French Town and other local markets. After 18 months of dangerous investigative work, Alan signed arrest warrants and search warrants against the entire "Plantation Burglary Ring" and all members of the "Market Hunting Gang", including the buyers. Much of the stolen property was recovered and returned to Plantation Owners in South Georgia and North Florida. All of the outlaws were tried by the Courts, were convicted and served jail or prison time and paid substantial fines. Afterward, Alan received a "Resolution" for Outstanding Service from GFC and commendations from the Sheriffs of Leon, Thomas and Grady Counties and was promoted to "Asst. Chief of Law Enforcement at GFC. He was invited to Atlanta where he advised Georgia DNR Law Enforcement on the establishment of an Investigations Program and subsequently made presentations to other southeastern and western States. In 1980, Major Lamarche chose to give up the security of State employment and devote his life and career to protecting the Plantation Community. Because of that decision, much of the Plantation Community does not have the appearance of being a "soft" target today as it did in the past. Perception is reality and PSI was formed to create the image among criminals that the Plantation Community is a formidable "hardened" target. The 24/7 display of Plantation Security's "No Trespassing," "Warning" and "No Firearms" signs on Plantation public access perimeters and entrances serve as a constant reminder to potential trespassers. Plantation Security Officers are highly trained experienced Professionals. They are uniformed, armed and are licensed by the States of Georgia & Florida. Plantation Security Patrolmen drive 4X4 marked Patrol vehicles equipped with the latest communications equipment. They undergo "high liability" training twice a year including Firearms Qualifications. PSI Officers have made hundreds of apprehensions over the years and deterred even more crime in the community they serve. Plantation Security donates thousands of dollars worth of manpower and services to Tall Timbers and the Plantation Community each year. In the Tall Timbers woodlands, PSI is the first line of defense against poachers and trespassers. Their presence allows our research studies and collections to proceed unfettered from outside intrusion. They provide Security Patrols to our Research Facilities and provide parking and security services for numerous TT Sponsored functions and events wherever they are held. To "harden" the Plantation Community so that the criminal element would rather seek "other" targets, it is important that Plantation Security receive the support of the "entire" Plantation Community. Their rates for security services are very reasonable, usually around the cost of a few gallons of gas a day. Their Officers are cordial and courteous and they maintain excellent rapport with Plantation Employees. As an independent contractor, PSI carries their own liability insurance and is responsible for the actions of their Officers. This relieves owners of the "deep pocket" concerns of an untrained employee handling a risky situation improperly. Most importantly, PSI provides Owners and managers with another "tool" to better "control" the Plantation. The Staff and Tall Timbers Board of Trustees are grateful for the security and comfort of having PSI and their fine staff of professional Patrolmen on our team. They truly are the "Specialists" that should be dealing with the Plantation Community's security needs.