PICKENS COUNTY — When Sheriff Rick Clark took office following the 2012 election, he envisioned more community interaction with members of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office and the success it could bring.
He expected part of that success to come from a Community Action Team program that was implemented. Composed of five officers and one detective, the team’s sole purpose is to work with the community.
Following the announcement last week of 66 drug-related charges being filed against 38 people in the second phase of Operation Community Response, Clark said he can see that the success is beginning to come.
Phase one in November 2015 yielded 58 arrests and 79 charges.
Both phases were successful, Clark said, due to the community’s reaction to the Community Action Team program. It is through the interaction with the community that information about suspicious activity and possible drug-related activity find their way into the PCSO system.
Clark cited a specific example of how the CAT team has affected change.
“We received a call from a concerned resident of the community who was experiencing problems of theft in their neighborhood. This is a sign of methamphetamine activity or a possible meth house in the area,” the sheriff said. “The CAT team went to work and with one or two good stops, meth was found. A narcotics officer made a buy at the house which was suspected which resulted in arrest and an eviction and the neighborhood is back to normal.”
Although the CAT program is administered by the PCSO, Clark said the system only works when road officers, the narcotics division and the community work hand in hand.
“It all begins at the community level,” he said. “We have very qualified officers on the road but residents are capable of helping more than they think.”
The targets of Community Response are the higher level dealers and distributors and Clark feels the operation is beginning to see those results.
“Some of the charges we are now getting are for mid-level and upper-level dealers in the county. The landscape has changed and manufacturing doesn’t occur here as much anymore,” Clark said. “The bulk of the supply comes from cartels who are able to produce large, mass quantities of the product. It’s definitely not what it used to be with the bulk of what’s seen in Pickens County now coming up the I-85 corridor.”
In 2013 Pickens County had some 2,233 reports of crimes against property, theft and larceny. In 2014, there was a reduction in that number to 1,900 and in 2015, that number dropped to 1,862.
For Clark, the purpose of the Community Action Team program and Operation Community Response are clear.
“We wanted to develop a partnership with the community to attack our problems at the community level,” he said. “We’re not where we want to be but we are headed in the right direction. We’ve changed the way we do it, the way we go out and find the bad guys and put them in jail. Now we do it from several different avenues.”
Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.