15th Circuit solicitor urges law enforcement to work together in war against gangs
HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WMBF) - In Horry and Georgetown counties, there are around 1,400 suspected gang members, according to the 15th Circuit solicitor, and the key to getting them off the streets is teamwork.
Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said contrary to what many people think, gangs across the state are working together to make their presence stronger in neighborhoods.
“When they run out of dope in Socastee, the gangs from Longs will supply that dope. Almost like businesses would do. You’re thinking they don’t get along but they do. They are business partners. When they tear down their walls and work together, they are more effective as a gang,” Richardson said.
That’s why Richardson said law enforcement must be willing to work together on local, state and national levels to take down the big fish together.
It was the main message Richardson brought to the table last week during the South Carolina Gang Investigators Association Conference in Myrtle Beach. It was an opportunity for law enforcement agencies across the Carolinas to learn about trends in gang activity and how law enforcement can help one another.
Richardson said agencies tend to hold on to their cases and not necessarily work with other agencies, but he said that way of thinking must stop.
“If the Bloods and Crips can get along enough to sell dope and hurt people, then police agencies, federal and state can work together enough to protect,” he said.
He said local police do a great job of identifying gang members. But Richardson added that more bad apples can be brought to justice if all the agencies share information about their cases with one another which could lead to those arrests.
“There’s a tendency in law enforcement to really hold on to each case. But to be effective we need to tear a lot of that down, not only in Horry County and Sumter but also between the different agencies and our federal partners.”
Richardson said ‘Operation Broken Branch’ out of Longs is a perfect example of how federal, state and local police agencies worked together. That operation resulted in the arrests of 31 suspected gang members in the Cedar Branch area for their roles in a drug trafficking organization.
He said that take-down resulted in many residents feeling safer in their neighborhoods.
“This lady called and said I want you to listen to something. That’s the sound of kids outside who are able to play. I couldn’t turn my kids loose in this neighborhood two weeks ago because of all the ‘gang-bangers’ and drug sellers,” Richardson said.
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