January 23, 2007
AIKEN CTY, S.C.---Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt says a booming county means growing crime rates. But he says he can win the war if the price is right.
We rode along with Deputy Austin Lancaster, who says he and fellow deputies spend a lot of time on traffic calls.
"We get real busy. Sometimes we just go from call to call," he said. "We patrol and enforce the best we can."
But even he admits that isn't always easy, especially with only 13 other deputies working an average shift.
That's a handful of deputies handling an average of 200 calls.
"We cover 1,000 square miles. That's a lot," Deputy Lancaster said. "Aiken County is growing. With more people, you get more crime. With more crime, you need more deputies."
That's exactly why Sheriff Hunt will ask the Aiken County Council for more money in this year's budget.
He wants up to 22 more people to help get crime off his streets.
"It's a safety issue," he told News 12. "The more calls you run, the more chances of someone getting hurt."
While he admits there's no dire need now, there will be in the next five to ten years.
"We're keeping our heads above water," he said.
Sheriff Hunt says about 98 percent of the crime in Aiken County is driven by illegal drugs, and there are only five narcotics agents.
"You never know what you'll roll up on," Deputy Lancaster said. "You see two people walking down the street and they could have crack. In this area where we just came from, there was a shooting earlier. We need more police presence."
County Administrator Clay Killian says he predicts it will cost at least half a million dollars to add 15 to 20 deputies, not including additional patrol cars and equipment that will be required for each one.
The council gets to take it up in May, and the whole thing should be finalized by the end of June.