City comes together against crime

Kyle Myers was one of several area pastors who spoke Friday at an anti-crime prayer rally at the Courthouse. Other speakers included Mayor Curtis Boyd and Police Chief Kelvin Washington. PHOTO BY DAWSON JORDAN

Sheriff James Hudson (left) and Darlington Chief of Police Kelvin Washington discuss recent crime and what possibly be done to decrease it. PHOTO BY BOBBY BRYANT

Participants gather Friday on the Courthouse grounds to pray for peace, harmony and a decrease in crime. PHOTO BY BOBBY BRYANT

By Bobby Bryant, Editor

Darlington Police Chief Kelvin Washington drew a line in the sand at a news conference last week with county Sheriff James Hudson. “It’s got to stop,” Washington said of the slayings that rocked the area last week – three deaths in a few days, a gun battle between people riding in two cars, a 16-year-old killed. “If we’ve got to put folks in jail to accomplish that, then that’s what’s going to happen, because we cannot have a society where this kind of behavior is condoned. We just can’t,” Washington said May 21 at a City Hall press conference. “I’m asking these folks, stop! Because if you don’t, either we’re going to get you, or the end of a bullet’s going to get you,” the chief said. The news conference came hours after an 8 a.m. prayer service at the Courthouse last Friday, where about 50 people sought “healing” for the crime and gun violence in Darlington County recently. “Darlington County needs a healing,” one speaker said. At the prayer rally, Darlington Mayor Curtis Boyd led several local pastors in asking God to help end the violence. “We stand with Jesus,” Boyd said. Ultimately, Boyd said, “The only thing that’s going to make Darlington change is for people to look here, and they see a difference – they see that Jesus is in Darlington.” At the news conference, Washington said that the Darlington Police Department has partnered with the county Sheriff’s Office, the State Law Enforcement Division, and other agencies. Hudson said the Sheriff’s Office also has entered into partnerships with other agencies including SLED and has created a four-person homicide unit for the first time. The Sheriff’s Office also has hired a “community liaison,” Hudson said. Hudson said, “We’ve been working hard since Jan. 5, the day we took office. Since that time, we’ve had nine homicides (in the county’s jurisdiction). Seven of those have (resulted in arrests). Two, we’re still working on.” “We ask that you be patient,” the sheriff said. “We’re working hard. We’re being proactive. We’re being creative. We’re doing everything we possibly can do to make sure the citizens are safe. … The main thing we’ve got to have is the help of the people who live in these communities where some of these guys who are behaving the way they are live as well.” “We ask you for your help to bring them to justice,” Hudson added. Washington said he and Hudson have been supporting each other as the area has been hit with more crime. “The sheriff and I have been speaking a lot lately,” Washington said. “ … We have been kind of leaning on each other, keeping each other’s spirits lifted. We both, at different times, are overwhelmed with what we have to deal with. … (but) we always have to stand strong.” The police chief said he and the sheriff have discussed cases around the country in which law-enforcement officers have behaved violently while dealing with African-American suspects. “We both believe the police should be held accountable when they do things that they should not do,” Washington said. “Misconduct should not be ever tolerated. … But what I want to add to that is simply this: The lives of those people taken at the hands of police officers, those lives matter. But the lives of these children who are being taken at the hands of other young people who look like them, those lives matter as well.” “I’m not minimizing either one,” he added. “What I’m asking the public to do, and I’m asking the media to help us with this, is let us come together and let’s address both issues.” Asked what’s driving the increased crime in the area, Washington said one reason is that it’s easy for almost anyone to buy a gun. “It is so easy for these young people to get guns,” he said. And, he said, in some cases with gang ties, gunshot victims “don’t want to cooperate. The person that got shot knows who the person is that shot him, but won’t tell us who it is.” Washington said he would ask non-cooperating victims: “Do you think your community is safer with those folks still in it? They need to be in jail.” Asked whether judges are setting bonds too low, letting criminal suspects get out of jail too easily, Washington said law enforcement has been working with local judges concerning the bonds they set, “and they’ve been setting higher bonds.” He said he spoke with one judge who’s realized that young suspects are practically “getting out the next day on a $100,000 bond.” The chief said he believes that local judges are coming to feel that suspects involved in gang-like activity – random shootings and the like – should either have high bonds or no bond. Washington urged parents to know what their teens are involved in. Do they have a gun in their room? Find out, he said. “A 15-year-old doesn’t have any business with a gun.” “It takes a village” to raise a child properly, Washington said, citing the popular axiom. “It’s going to take all of us. We’re all going to have to do some things differently than what we’ve done before.”

Author: Rachel Howell

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