HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) The Horry County Solicitor's office is cracking down on gang-related crime which officials say is spiking right now. They are trying to move the large number of cases through the legal system to get criminal gang members behind bars.
"It's very disconcerting…it's disconcerting to me. I had no idea when we started this…the number of cases we would get in," said Horry County Assistant Solicitor Heather Von Herrmann said,
Von Herrmann said there is a wide range of the types of cases they are dealing with. "These are graffiti cases which are malicious injury to property cases. They are in large measure drug cases. But there is also a good proportion of them that are violent crimes and when I say violent crimes I'm talking about murders, armed robberies, burglaries."
The Solicitor's office is teaming up with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to put a stop to it.
"We are meeting once a month, and we're trying to share resources and cooperate with one another to make sure we have the problem covered and that we are getting the best bang for our buck in terms of prosecution," said Von Herrmann.
Von Herrmann said within a six week period they have been able to close and sentence 30 cases out of 300. "Hopefully it's sending a message that we are serious about prosecuting them and they will be dealt with," said Von Herrmann.
Officials said they are pushing for stricter penalties with longer sentences in an effort to keep the community safe. Von Herrmann said, "If we're able to tell the judge this person is a member of a criminal gang. That lets the judge know that this is someone to be taken seriously and a greater threat to the community."
The Solicitor's office said decreasing the high number of gangs in our community comes down to community awareness and parental involvement. Elizabeth Bowens said, "Gangs…what they are doing is enticing the young ones by giving them 5, 10 or 20 dollars because kids aren't used to having money so if children is coming home with money in their pocket…find out where they are getting it from."
Bowens is a member of the organization Mothers Against Violence who says people need to take proactive measures.
"The community needs to get together because if one child talks…all are going to talk," said Bowens. Somebody knows about these crimes they are committing. If they are breaking in someone's house they are going to go tell it to their friends..so if they are out here doing this somebody needs to tell on them…turn them in. Let them go serve the time because if they did the crime let them do the time."
The Horry County Solicitor's office plans to move more gang-related cases coming up in July. They are also working to put a hotline into place for those who want to report gang-related activity anonymously.