GREENVILLE COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – Greenville County Sheriff Hobart Lewis implemented the Uniform Patrol Violent Crime Initiative about four weeks ago.
Officials said its purpose is to curb shootings and violent crime.
“Well, just looking at the pattern of behavior in the county, and the calls we were responding to, and the level of violence and as things occurred, gun violence and some of that, we just sat down and we were trying to come up with some solutions,” Lewis said. “We certainly knew that guns and drugs were a large part of that problem, as well as identifying gang members. So, we came up with developing a task force and assigning folks out to work very specific areas, and looking for specific things, and it just kind of evolved into this.”
“If you look at just violence around the county, and again, gun violence and the number of shootings that we have. The number of calls for services we have that involved guns, we certainly know there’s a problem,” Lewis said. “We know that’s a high priority for law enforcement, and as we got more deputies available to work out on the road, it was able to free up some of the more senior folks…investigator type folks we had to focus on this type problems.”
The new tactic has led to 90 suspects behind bars over the four weeks.
“Some were gang members. I mean, the age certainly varied,” Lewis said.
The sheriff said there were 11 guns seized, 52 active warrants served, and 111 citations for anything from open containers to disorderly conduct, traffic violations, and marijuana possession.
Deputies also seized 1,290 grams of marijuana, 146 grams of methamphetamine, just over 40 grams of crack cocaine, and five grams of fentanyl. Two stolen vehicles were also recovered.
So, where were some of the people identified?
“It may have been a nightclub. It may have been a place where we’ve had a high number of calls for service,” Lewis said. “Most of it is public places. We really hadn’t specifically got into neighborhoods So, we have White Horse Road, for instance, where you would have several bars and night clubs that we get a large volume for calls for service for.”
“We know there’s a problem out there. We don’t know who’s causing the problem. We may want to close that bar because of the number of calls that we’ve received that we have to respond to,” Lewis said. “So, that’s kind of what led to us focusing on those roadways…those parking lots. Some of those clubs and those things, where we’ve had shootings occur.”
Sheriff Lewis said they have seen a huge decline in the violent crimes over the last couple of years.
“[We are] very thankful for that, but we don’t want to let that go back up. We want to stay focused on where the problems are. That’s where we’re going to put deputies,” Lewis said.
Lewis said they will not stop with this initiative.
“What we’re looking for, those places of high call volume. High activity. Again, gang members. Gang members that we identify.” Lewis explained. “If we know where they’re going, we know where they’re hanging out. Anywhere where violence occurs and criminal activity occurs, that’s what we’re going to focus on.”
Lewis said they are doing everything they can to keep people safe.
“Now that COVID is over, we’re working with the judicial services to put people in jail and keep them in jail,” Lewis said. “We’re going to do everything that we can to keep criminals in jail where they belong and off the streets and keep people safe. That’s our mission.”
“You send your kids to school, you want to know they are safe while they’re there. You put them on the bus and send them home, you want to know they’re safe coming home,” said Sheriff Lewis. “You want to know you’re safe going to the grocery store. You’re safe going to an ATM machine. That’s our responsibility. That’s our obligation to keep people safe in Greenville County, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
While those arrested ranged from young people to late middle age, Lewis is sending a message.
“The message that we want to relay to all of our young people is, gang activity is not the answer. It is not a safe haven. It is not going to provide you meals. It’s not going to provide you a place to stay. That is not your family,” Lewis said. “That’s only short term. What that will do is land you in jail.”
“We know who you are. We identify gang members all the time on a daily basis,” he said. “You don’t want to spend your life – your adult life – in jail.”
Sheriff Lewis said the initiative has been successful.