Many in Aiken Co. hopeful for Sheriff’s Office expansion in force

Aiken County Sheriff's Office

Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt is asking for an expansion in force -- an expansion he says the county needs to stay safe. (WRDW-TV / May 30, 2012)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Wednesday, May 30, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- Philip Turner, the pastor at the First Baptist Church of Wagener, has heard the stories of other churches that have been vandalized or stolen from.

Besides a weed-eater stolen off church property, Turner's church has been lucky so far, but he hopes a proposed budget increase that would put more deputies on the road is passed by the Aiken County Council.

"To have more manpower would be a great thing,” he said.

"This county is about the size of the state of Rhode Island -- so a very large county. Our population is up, and with more population, you ought to have more calls for service,” said Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt.

That's why Hunt is calling for the change. The council would have to find about a million dollars to fund the expansion in force. Hunt wants four new dispatchers, four new deputies and four new road sergeants.

"Our call volume is up at a pretty alarming rate -- both in the dispatch center and in uniform patrol for calls for service,” he said.

Hunt says the move would help people like Turner, who lives outside of Wagener town limits. But Hunt says it'd also be beneficial to the Sheriff's Office after two line-of-duty deaths at the Aiken Department of Public Safety in only a matter of months.

"Some of our deputies wait eight to 10 minutes for another car to get to them for backup,” he said.

He says the faster response times would help smaller police forces, too.

"Right now, you know, they have one zoned deputy for this area up here,” said Lt. Keith Shumpert of the Wagener Police Department.

Shumpert said he hopes that will change, but first, the Aiken County Council has to find the extra funds.

Ultimately, Hunt says currently there are about 16 deputies working on any given shift. He says if the Aiken County Council allows the expansion, that number will go up to 18.

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