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Sheriff says crime rate is coming down, looks to community for more involvement

Barnwell Fishburne, Andy Strickland & Eric Campbell. Photo Submitted

Barnwell Fishburne, Andy Strickland & Eric Campbell. Photo Submitted

Most violent crime in Colleton County is down while some arrests are up. These are statistics that Sheriff Andy Strickland credits to having more boots on the ground and more community awareness.

Aggressive assaults in the county have decreased by 52 percent, with burglaries also falling by 22 percent. These numbers are comparing crime statistics within the county from January to September 30, 2012, to the same time frame in this year. According to Strickland, motor vehicle larcenies have also decreased by 45 percent, falling from 118 in 2012 to 64 this year.

At the same time, however, some crimes have increased. Alcohol arrests are up by 211 percent, and possession-of-weapons charges have skyrocketed by 130 percent. DUIs top the list, with an increase of 220 percent. In 2012, there were only five DUI arrests; from Jan. – Sept., to date this year, there have been 11.

Overall arrests in the county have also increased, from 850 in 2012 to 1,178, so far, in 2013. The byproduct of this is jail overcrowding. According to Strickland, the jail population has increased this year by 38 percent. “It’s because of proactive law enforcement,” he said.

Strickland gave his report to Colleton County Council at its September 30th meeting. Standing in front of council, he first thanked them for giving the sheriff’s office the resources it has. Appearing sincere and humble, Strickland then quickly rattled off the numbers, giving plenty of credit to officers across the county. “We had two men who broke into a house in Islandton yesterday, and by today, we had the property recovered and an arrest was made,” he told council on September 30th. “I’m very proud of where we are.” He then said the sheriff’s office is working to recover stolen property, and is focused on breaking down “strings” of illegal activity, such as several recent auto break-ins that occurred from Walterboro to Savannah to St. George.

Strickland says he knows it’s just about the numbers – and it’s not all good news: he wants more community involvement and has tasked the sheriff’s office with participating in the recent community movement called “United Colleton.”

“Here, churches, law enforcement, and community residents are working together to take back their streets from fear and crime.” Strickland said the sheriff’s office recently participated in the group’s first march in the Brittlebank neighborhood, and the United Colleton movement is working now to implement new Community Crime Watch groups.

The sheriff’s office plan to be involved in this group is simple, Strickland said: more law enforcement involvement, and more community crime groups should equal more proactive work and more arrests. “We are hitting problems dead-on,” he said. “We are trying to turn our community around.” Strickland says he has met personally with pastors in the community, and is thankful for their support. “Every day is a new day to make things happen,” he said. “We have a lot of hurdles, but we are tackling them.”

Colleton County Council eagerly accepted Strickland’s report on lower crime and more arrests, with nearly each councilman thanking him for his efforts. “We appreciate you,” Chairman Phillip Taylor said to Strickland.

Heather Walters (1492 Posts)