Darlington County Sheriff’s Office forms SVU

By Samantha Lyles, Staff Writer, slyles@newsandpress.net

Darlington County Sheriff Tony Chavis has a message for those who commit domestic violence, take advantage of vulnerable adults, or abuse children: “If you commit these crimes in Darlington County, we’ve got a jail cell for you,” says Chavis.

To enforce this edict, Chavis has established a Special Victims Unit (SVU) to exclusively investigate and prosecute these crimes, ensuring that victims receive care and services, and perpetrators receive the message that their crimes will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

“I thought it was an exceptional idea,” says Chavis, explaining that plans began for a Special Victims Unit soon after he won the Democratic primary last summer and became the presumptive county sheriff.

“We had a long time to think about this during the campaign, and as I was starting to put together my command staff, I knew that based upon where South Carolina ranks nationally for crimes against women and DV (domestic violence) cases…we needed to have a dedicated set of investigators to deal with DV cases, vulnerable adults, and crimes against children,” says Chavis.

Sheriff Chavis selected Lt. Larry Stivender to head the SVU, citing his decade of experience working with special victims in Lake City, Clarendon County, and Darlington County.

“I wanted somebody who cared deeply,” says Chavis. “As a father of girls, I want to make sure that any crime where somebody abused a woman was dealt with severely, and crimes against the elderly and children were dealt with likewise.”

Stivender says he shares the new sheriff’s passion for protecting society’s most vulnerable members, and plans to make sure South Carolina’s newly strengthened Criminal Domestic Violence laws are utilized to dissuade local criminals from becoming repeat offenders.

“If you beat a woman, you shouldn’t just get 30 days in jail and think it’s fine,” says Stivender, observing that a weak jail sentence for victimizing a woman or child essentially means that “the victim gets victimized twice.”

Stivender and the Darlington County SVU investigators work closely with the Special Prosecutor of the Fourth Circuit Solicitor’s Office to keep on top of pending court cases, testifying in person whenever possible, providing written statements from victims who are unable to appear, and generally putting in the time and effort to assure tough sentencing for the worst offenders.

Each SVU officer is also trained as a victim advocate so they are capable of shepherding victims through the tumult following a crime. Stivender says the SVU will also try to help out by directing victims to counseling, relocation, and employment opportunities by connecting with community agencies like the Pee Dee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Assault, the Durant Children’s Center, and the Department of Social Services.

Currently, the Darlington County SVU has three officers; two handle domestic violence and sex offense investigations and the other deals with cases of elder abuse. Chavis says he hopes to add a fourth officer to the unit soon.

To contact Lt. Larry Stivender about the Darlington County SVU, call (843) 398-4501 or (843) 624-1065, or email lstivender@darcosc.com

Author: Duane Childers

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