More than 260 cases – 92 of which have been drug related – have been opened by the Horry County Police Department’s Street Crimes Unit and a recent allocation of money by the County Council shows that number won’t stop increasing soon.
Chief Saundra Rhodes created the unit late last year in an effort to combat street level crimes and gang activity, said Lt. Robert Kegler. It’s a six-person unit that has created 263 cases in the first six months of its existence.
“The beauty of the street crimes unit is that they are not call responsive,” Kegler said. “They are designed to go to an area where there is a pattern or rash of crimes and work the area. When they were first deployed, they helped solve and stop a rash of armed robberies in the Socastee area.”
Kegler was referencing armed robberies earlier this year, which led to the arrest of three people.
It’s precisely what Chief Rhodes wants to hear from the unit created under her helm.
“The street crimes unit has been able to free up some of the response time calls for officers by addressing some of the issues that we haven’t really been able to address and do some of the follow ups,” she said. “It kind of gives some of the patrol officers some time to actually spend time on a call and not just write a report and leave.”
According to information from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting database, violent crimes in Horry County were at 943 in 2010, while property crimes were at 7,375. Both numbers grew in 2011 to 1,060 and 7,643, respectively. Information for 2012 is not yet available.
Chief Rhodes said the unit also is finding time to build relationships in communities like Socastee and Bucksport.
“It puts the officers in the communities and learning who those people are in those communities, learning about some of the possible drug activities and some of the gang activities in the communities,” she said.
Though patrol is not its main focus, the street crimes unit stopped a 2003 Nissan Maxima in May for speeding in the Galivants Ferry area. A search of the vehicle revealed about $1 million worth of cocaine and marijuana hidden in the car.
“They can dedicate time to a specific area where we are receiving complaints of drug sales and work it properly without having to worry about stopping to answer a call for service,” Kegler said. “They also work with our Gang Intelligence Officer to combat gang activity in Horry County.”
Chief Rhodes said she has received calls from churches and other community leaders to bring the street crimes unit to their area to discuss gang and drug information and educate parents, as well.
“They might not even realize that their child might be getting involved in gang activities,” she said. “So when we get those guys in the community to go to the parents in the communities, it gives them an opportunity to educate them.”
The unit’s work has not gone unnoticed by the Horry County Council either. The council allocated about $435,000 in its budget for this year. Chief Rhodes is proud the unit is being recognized and is hoping it contributes to a reduction in crime or more arrests for the crimes being committed.
“I have been absolutely pleased with how things are going. They’ve been noticeable,” she said. “They’re in the communities.”
Contact JASON M. RODRIGUEZ at 626-0301 or follow him at Twitter.com/TSN_jrodriguez.