Police monitoring teens, discover threats against Upstate churches on social media

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WESTMINSTER, S.C. (WSPA) – A new kind of crime has been on the rise in the City of Westminster. 

Police Chief Rory Jones told 7News that his detectives have been keeping tabs on a group of young people who have been connected to a slew of crimes. 

More reports of shattered car windshields and broken windows have recently been filed at the Westminster Police Department. 

Jones said those and similar crimes have continued to rise over the last year.

“It ranges from assault and battery to assault by mob, damage to property [or] cursing,” Jones said. 

Jones said there has not been any patterns to the crimes except for who has been behind them. 

“It started out as a couple of juveniles. Now it appears to be a cumulative group that ourselves and the school district has come up with. About 40 juveniles,” Jones told 7News. 

Detectives have been monitoring the minors since making the connection. 

Jones said believes the organized criminal activity may point towards the formation of a gang. He mentioned that the group has been identifying by using signs and the color blue. 

Last week, while keeping an eye on the teens, detectives made an alarming discovery. 

“We intercepted a Snapchat that resulted in contacting the [Oconee County] Sheriff’s Office and SLED,” said Jones. 

Oconee County investigators said the social media post, shared by a minor on Westminster’s watch list, made threats against area churches and referred to using weapons. 

On Thursday, that minor was question by local and FBI investigators. 

“All agencies agreed after studying the social media post it did not rise to the level of criminal prosecution,” said Oconee County Sheriff’s Office PIO Kianna Holland. “There is no immediate danger to the church by this individual or his associates.” 

Jones said gangs have never been an issue in his jurisdiction, which is why police have started taking steps to dismantle the group. 

Jones said he hopes Westminster City Council will pass an ordinance in June that will set a 9 p.m. curfew for teens 15-year-old and under and 11 p.m. curfew for everyone else. The ordinance would also allow police to hold parents accountable for their children’s actions. 

However, the police department hopes watchful citizens will help them as well.

“We are trying to employ the community first and foremost, because the more eyes you have on the situation the better of it is,” Jones said. 

Holland told 7News that they have encouraged Oconee County churches to remain vigilant during worship services and church activities.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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