Gang task force could be taking shape

The long-proposed task force to battle gang and drug activity in the county may finally become a reality in the coming months.
An intergovernmental agreement between the county and its seven municipal governments to fund the task force will be on the agendas for the regular council meetings in February for the county's three largest towns: Barnwell, Blackville and Williston.
The councils of those three towns have all expressed support for the task force.
According to the agreement, the task force is expected to have four people working under the sheriff's authority and coordinating with federal, state and other law enforcement agencies. Some of the people on the task force will work undercover.
The task force will focus on "mid-to-upper-level drug violators and litigate gang violence and activity," according to the agreement. The sheriff will provide updates on the work of the task force to the various councils. Each year the councils will have to authorize new funds for the task force.
Promoted by Sheriff Ed Carroll for years, the task force idea came to the forefront last year after the sheriff and County Councilman Keith Sloan used a YouTube video showing what they called gang-related activity in the county to make their point about the necessity to put together a team focused solely on battling gang and drug crime in the county. The video was shown to the governing councils of the county's municipalities.
The plan is to fund the task force with money from all the municipalities and the county's coffers. Each town will pay $10 per person living within its municipal borders, and the county will pay $10 per resident living on county land, the agreement states.
The total annual price tag would be around $226,000 if everyone paid their fair share - with the county covering about half the cost.
At the January regular county council meeting, council approved $173,000 for the task force - about $60,000 more than its share - in a budget-amendment ordinance.
Though there is plenty of support for the plan, concerns still exist.
Blackville Mayor Mike Beasley said he thinks the task force is necessary, but he hasn't gotten all the information he would like from the sheriff and the county regarding exactly how his town's money will be spent.
He said the intergovernmental agreement is vague and that he asked for a complete breakdown of how Blackville's money will be used but hasn't gotten a response from the county.
"We just need a little more information," he said, "I just think there should be a little more planning ..."
Beasley said the agreement will be on the agenda for the town council's regular meeting.