Task force support sought in county
Barnwell County Sheriff Ed Carroll and County Councilman Keith Sloan continued their push for a gang task force during the regular Blackville Town Council meeting Sept. 16.
The task force, an idea floated around for years, would have four narcotics- and gang-enforcement officers working full time. The officers would only work on gang and drug activity, Carroll said.
The task force would be under the supervision of the sheriff. The cost, $226,000 annually, would be picked up by the county and municipalities. The municipalities would pay $10 per resident toward the task force - $24,000 a year for Blackville.
Sloan and Carroll have repeatedly said gangs and drugs are a county-wide problem and everyone should pitch in to help combat the issue.
The renewed push for the task force stems from videos posted to YouTube in March and April. The videos, posted by YouTube user Stephen Smith, appear to have been mostly shot in parts of Williston and Elko. One video shows the street sign for Elko Street and Jones Ray Circle in Williston and several buildings are recognizeable.
The longest video, titled "DawgLyfe/DopeBlock-Go," has 6,000 views.
The videos show young people hanging out, partying and drinking. There are several shots of people holding guns, and in one shot a young child appears to be holding up a gang sign.
The videos were first shown to Williston Town Council shortly after being posted online. At that time, law enforcement officers told council members they knew several people in the video.
They said they had reached out to people in the video and their family members to learn more information. They said they were told the video was made just for fun and the guns weren't real.
Williston Town Council has said they are in favor of a gang task force, but no action has been taken yet. Three new members will join the council in October along with a new mayor.
Barnwell City Council and Barnwell County Council have also not taken any formal action, though county council supports the plan.
After showing the video to the Blackville Council, Carroll said residents who have been in Barnwell County for 30 years have called him and said they're scared to go outside.
"That's sad," he said, "And it's going to take a force to reckon with this problem."
Referring to the video, Sloan said, "A lot of those people I know, you know; see them every day. I'm not going to say they're bad people, but some probably are."
The council did not take action on the issue, but Mayor Mike Beasley said it will be taken into consideration.
Later in the meeting, Blackville Police Chief John Holston said he is generally in favor of the task force, although he doesn't know the ins and outs of the plan. He said his main concern would be how much time the task force dedicates to Blackville.
"It's impossible for patrol officers to do what a task force can," he said, adding that patrol officers do not have the time and are to visible in public to perform the operations - which can sometimes span several years - a drug task force can.
Blackville's Police Department is fully staffed with six full-time officers, two part-time officers and two reserve officers. Holston said he wants to increase the number of reserve officers.
He also said violent crimes and property crimes have decreased in the past few months, but drug arrests have increased in the past 60 days.
Holston said the neighborhood watch program is working and its partnership with the Police Department is a positive thing for the community.
In other business:
Councilman Kelvin Isaac presented Franklin Dash, owner of Dash's Funeral Home, with a Business of the Month plaque.
The council voted to approve Albert Raysor's request to join the town's zoning board of appeals. Council also approved Kathy Orr for the town's planning commission.