A partnership between South Carolina law enforcement agencies and federal prosecutors attempts to target repeat gun and drug offenders.
U.S. Attorney Beth Drake said the concept of Operation Real Time has been used for years to go after those who are “tearing up the community.”
“Working with our state and local law enforcement partners, we identify with the intelligence from local law enforcement who it is… and then ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) works with law enforcement on what typically is a gun charge,” she said.
“Sometimes its guns and drugs, but it’s a gun charge where a repeat violent offender or a repeat drug offender — for distribution offenses — is prosecuted for the continuing possession of a firearm.”
In South Carolina, federal gun charges may be pursued against a suspect who has two previous violent charges, two previous drug charges or one of each.
“Or, law enforcement tells us the person is tearing up the community somehow,” Drake said. “That’s what we’re trying to pick up is someone that has a violent record or a repeat offender on distribution of narcotics and they’re continuing possession of a firearm.”
Drake said, while prosecutors and law enforcement officers have to respond to every crime, the feds can pick and choose which cases to pursue for Real Time.
“We can discriminate, if that’s the right word, amongst offenses and pull the worst federal,” she said. “So we don’t want every gun case. What we want are the repeat violent offenders. It’s very impactful.”
Drake said the program helps law enforcement agencies and solicitors in rural areas which may be short on personnel and money.
In Spartanburg County, the program helps agencies deal with domestic violence offenders. Drake said agencies go after the worst domestic violence offenders by using federal gun laws that preclude someone who’s committed domestic violence from possessing a firearm.