Sheriff outlines constraints he faces in crimefighting

Darlington County Sheriff James Hudson. FILE PHOTO

By Bobby Bryant, Editor

Not long ago, one of Darlington County Sheriff James Hudson’s deputies told the sheriff he was leaving – but not for another job in law enforcement. The deputy, 29, told Hudson he was leaving to take a job at an Olive Garden restaurant as a dish-washer because, he said, he could make more money there. “I understand,” Hudson told him. “This is just not for me,” the deputy said. Hudson recounted that discussion to Darlington County Council during council’s June 7 regular meeting as part of a briefing on the manpower and financial constraints the Sheriff’s Office is facing as it confronts a surge in gun violence in the area. The sheriff said he has 75 sworn deputies, divided up into three shifts per day, to patrol an area of about 600 square miles seven days a week. Six patrol deputies work each shift, he said, and they may deal with scores of calls per shift, ranging from stolen bicycles to trespassers to shootings. “There’s a large percentage of the public that blames us for things that go wrong in our society,” Hudson told council. “ ‘Why don’t we do this’ and ‘Why don’t we do that.’ We’ll take the blame, because that’s what we do. We’ve got tough skins and we’ll take the blame, even though we understand it’s not all our fault.” Hudson said: “We appreciate the raise that you gave (law-enforcement officers in the new county budget). We know they are hard to come by. … We’re going to try to implement a ‘step’ program. … We’re going to try to put some things in place (so) when people get hired, they get paid based on their experience coming in the door, and hopefully we can supplement it (so) they get paid (based) on their education.” “It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s something that we have to work toward doing,” Hudson said. Among the constraints the Sheriff’s Office faces, Hudson said, is that the county jail can only hold so many inmates at one time. “We had a staff meeting. … We were talking about doing some operations, and the major that runs the jail, he looked at me and said, ‘Sheriff, I agree it needs to be done, but if y’all lock up 20 people, we’re gonna be full, and we’re gonna be in a mess.’” Another issue for the jail is the cost of taking care of long-term inmates. One person now being held at the jail, Hudson said, has “cost us $91,000 this year” because of health issues. He said the Sheriff’s Office is going to try doing a video campaign – at no cost to the county – to recruit new officers who are already living in Darlington County. New statistics from the State Law Enforcement Division, although still preliminary, show sharp increases in violent crime across South Carolina, Hudson said. “Everything has gone up,” he said. “All of our violent crimes have gone up.” “It’s due to poverty, lack of knowledge, depression, mental health – it’s just the environment that we’re living in now,” Hudson said. “ … We need the public to help us. … We need people to report crimes when they see it. We need people to call in things when they see them.” “I work every weekend,” Hudson said. “I haven’t had a day off since I took office” in early January. “We’re going to work, and we’re going to try to get it done.”

Author: Stephan Drew

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