Community Watch group meets to discuss safety and crime prevention
By Stephan Drew, Editor
On Thursday, February 23, 2023, the Darlington County Crime Watch and Neighborhood Partners held their meeting at the Matthews & King Education Center, 115-B Exchange Street in Darlington. The group gathers monthly to discuss crime within the community and ways the community can become more involved in preventing future criminal activity. Ms. Deidre Odom, Chairperson of the group, presided over the meeting. Mrs. Carol Dixon, Director of Darlington Long Term Recovery Group addressed homes which are damaged. Dixon said the goal is to facilitate the return to safe, sanitary and secure homes. The requirements for the program are as follows: 1) You must be a homeowner, 2) You must be categorized as ‘low-income’, and 3) there can be no rental homes. Due to the proliferation of scams, a priority for the program is the elderly because they are prime targets. All funds are raised for the jobs that are done. No money is taken from any individuals in need.
Speaking on the increasing rates of crime, not only in Darlington, but all around the country, and the need for more family involvement, Dixon said, “We have to do better as parents.”
Merry Morgan Smith, Director of Planning and Economic Development in Darlington, described the programs and services available within the auspices of the Darlington City Government. Smith is not only on the Planning Commission, she is on the Darlington Tree Board, Historic Landmarks Division Beautification Committee, Liaison to the Darlington Downtown Revitalization Association and also Liaison to the Darlington Chamber of Commerce. Smith reported on the recent AfriCOBRA Art Project in downtown Darlington, near the Public Square. “The front of these stores were boarded up and looked really bad. These young people took what were ugly storefronts and turned them into art,” Smith said. Efforts such as these not only create beauty, they also increase property value and the aesthetic appeal of the entire area. While discussing recent economic development projects, Smith stated, “It’s going to depend on our small businesses. We don’t have huge tracts of land where giant corporations can come in, build large plants and hire hundreds of people. But, we do have entrepreneurs who are savvy and can help us grow. But, to do that,” Smith continued, “we have to have a closer relationship with our community.”
Darlington County Sheriff James Hudson Jr. was also on hand to answer questions. He stated that his office is helping to get more lights in areas with high crime and in other darkened residential areas. Hudson called for more youth involvement and a personal connection to the area. “It’s not like it was when we were growing up,” Hudson said, “we helped build our community. When you work hard on your home and yard, you appreciate it more. We must be personally invested in our community.” Hudson also discussed the Constitutional Carry law, voted on recently by the S.C. General Assembly. “When it passes, you won’t need a permit to carry a gun anywhere you want,” Hudson said. He also stressed more parental involvement. “We have to find out what’s causing these issues,” the Sheriff said, “they don’t talk anymore, they grab a gun. We have to find out why these kids are rushing to pick up guns to solve their problems.”
Darlington Police Chief James “Jimmy” Davis and Investigator Mike Melton were on hand to answer the group’s questions on increased crime. “It’s not just here,” Davis said, “it’s happening all over the country. We have to get a hold on it.” Davis and Melton also praised the work done by law enforcement drones from the Sheriff’s office. The drones are used for many things, including tracking suspects. “You wouldn’t believe what they can pick up,” Davis said, “They can pick up heat signatures and even a cat or dog walking by. They can even tell you if it’s 5 degrees cooler 10 feet over.”
All present agreed that Darlington residents have to step up and become more involved. “This didn’t get this way overnight and it’s not going to be fixed overnight,” Davis said. Rev. Corey Milling of Purpose to Live Ministries closed the meeting with a solemn prayer for the community.
The next meeting of the Darlington County Crime Watch and Neighborhood Partners will be held at 11:00am on March 23, 2023 at The Matthews & King Education Center, located at 115-B Exchange Street, in Darlington. I hope you will be there. It’s OUR community and WE ALL need to be involved. Nothing will be accomplished while you’re sitting back in your recliner complaining. Get involved and make a difference!