“The community is one of the most important aspects of crime prevention,” Orangeburg County Councilman Willie B. Owens said to a room full of police chiefs, sheriff’s deputies and other area leaders Thursday.
“And I believe with community help, we can push violent crime as well as property crime right on down to the lowest in the state of South Carolina,” Owens said.
In an effort to reduce crime throughout the county, Owens initiated the Orangeburg County Crime Taskforce over a year ago. Officials met Thursday as part of that effort.
The taskforce is gearing up for a Crime Summit at 10 a.m. April 24 at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College. The summit will be open to the public.
Sharing information is one of the goals of the taskforce. Linda Keith-Stroman, who is director of the effort, referenced the Old Testament passage Hosea 4:6 during Thursday’s meeting.
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,” the verse says in part.
Keith-Stroman said, “I’m concerned about us. We need one another.”
Collaborative efforts among law enforcement agencies, clergy, community members and volunteers are necessary when combating and preventing crime, she said.
Orangeburg Department of Public Safety Chief Wendell Davis said, “It is my belief that if we want to address crime here in Orangeburg, the most key component is information-sharing.”
The department has an officer whose primary duty is analyzing crime data and map trends in the City of Orangeburg, he said.
“We believe that if a person is involved in a crime in Orangeburg that he may go to Branchville or he might go to Holly Hill,” Davis said.
“We also believe that the same person who is doing the crime in Branchville, or Springfield or Santee will come to Orangeburg,” he added.
Davis encouraged Orangeburg County police chiefs to assign someone to funnel information from their towns to ODPS.
ODPS will then analyze that information and redistribute it to law enforcement agencies throughout the county, he said. The collected and analyzed data includes detailed information about the types of offenses committed and methods used by the offenders.
Davis also noted in 2000, Orangeburg was ranked worst in the state for violent crime. The number of violent crimes in the county has decreased since then.
And the most recent data shows that property crimes have increased statewide, yet for Orangeburg “we were able to reduce our property crime rate this past year compared to the year before,” he said.
The taskforce and law enforcement are also looking at ways to keep up with newly-released inmates and parolees and offer them opportunities to be responsible and productive citizens.
It’s a partnership that may be forged and supported with local clergy and churches.
Taskforce member Gerri Miro, retired director of the Division of Programs and Services at the S.C. Department of Corrections, said, “I’m convinced that if you give a person an opportunity to make a living and to do something that is productive, they may not rob you the next time, but you have a bait-and-switch with them now.”
“I’ve never seen, in my years of Corrections, any county trying to do what you all are attempting to do,” Miro said of the taskforce and multi-agency collaboration.
Orangeburg County is home to many ex-offenders and children who also become ex-offenders, Miro said. It will take dedicated community efforts to aid in breaking the cycle of ex-offenders.
“We can make such a difference, but we have to work together,” Orangeburg County Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said.
Ravenell said with the “resources we have together, we can make it happen.”
“There is no doubt what you can do with the cooperation of your community,” Owens said.
For more information or to partner with the Orangeburg County Crime Taskforce, contact Linda Keith-Stroman at email@example.com or call 803-614-5129. Write to the task force at P.O. Drawer 9000, Orangeburg, S.C. 29116.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD.