The Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office found out this week it is one of three law enforcement agencies in South Carolina to receive a federal Community Oriented Policing Service (COPS) grants.
“This is a big deal for us,” Sheriff Duane Lewis said of the $1 million grant.
Lewis credits South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham for helping his office secure the money.
“We have applied for this particular grant quite a number of times and finally I reached out to him for help and he actually — I don’t know what he did but he did something and it helped secure the grant,” the sheriff said.
The grant will pay for the office to add eight new deputies for three years. The county is responsible for paying for the deputies’ vehicles and equipment. After three years, the sheriff’s office can reapply for another grant.
The deputies will be assigned to the Community Action Team, “to target areas in the county that have crime problems,” said Lewis. The sheriff said crime rates on those targeted communities have “dropped dramatically.”
“We’ve seen some remarkable changes in some communities,” he said. “We’re not seeing the violent crimes and the burglaries and the thefts that we once saw . . . it works for us.”
“It’s a win-win,” he said. “The community gets to know the deputy. So it gives us a real opportunity to get to know the people and these folks get to know us which is how we solve crimes. We put deputies in and they stay in that community and they work with the community leaders. They attend block parties and crime prevention meetings.”
He said the new deputies could not come at a better time. Since the 2010 Census, more than 33,000 residents, two major corporations — Google and Volvo — and their satellite industries have moved into the county.
“Berkeley County is the new boom town,” said Lewis.
“Neighborhoods are popping up everywhere and we just — we haven’t been able to keep up with the pace,” he continued. “The last three years we’ve been really trying to get more personnel on board to be able to tackle the issues and the calls for service.”
The City of Myrtle Beach and the Spartanburg Department of Public Safety also received grants. Myrtle Beach was awarded $1.25 million in grant funding for the hiring of ten new officers. Spartanburg received roughly $244,400 to help hire two new officers.
CHP provides grant funding directly to state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to support hiring additional law enforcement officers for three years to address specific crime problems through community policing strategies. United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced 179 law enforcement agencies nationwide received more than $98 million in grants.
“The COPS program is a terrific grant opportunity for small communities who need more officers. These Chiefs and Sheriffs are doing great work and can do more of it with these additional officers on the street,“ U.S. Attorney for South Carolina Beth Drake said in a statement.