S.C. authorities ‘extremely concerned’ by spike in violent crime

Published: Jun. 3, 2021 at 2:03 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 3, 2021 at 3:38 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C.. (WRDW/WAGT) - Preliminary statistics from 2020 show a disturbing increase in violent crime in South Carolina, state authorities report.

Along with law enforcement officials from Edgefield, Saluda and Aiken counties, SLED Chief Mark Keel discussed the statistics at a news conference in Columbia this afternoon. The data compiled for SLED’s report comes from sheriff’s departments and police departments across the state.

The rate of murders went up approximately 25% while aggravated assaults were up approximately 9% in 2020, the statistics show. Property crimes continued to decrease except for arson which increased approximately 21% after steadily declining in 2018 and 2019.

“As I said last year, I am extremely concerned by the increasing amount of violence in our state including the number of murders and assaults,” Keel said. “I am particularly troubled at the steady increase in the number of murders taking place.”

The Palmetto State has reportedly seen murders increase by 51% over the past five years. Authorities say gangs, drugs and criminal’s access to guns continue to play a significant role.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, in 2020 more than 30,000 gangs operated in the streets of America with nearly all involved in distributing drugs and committing violent crimes.

South Carolina 2020 preliminary data for violent and property crime compared to 2019 statistics.
South Carolina 2020 preliminary data for violent and property crime compared to 2019 statistics.(SLED)

In addition to discussing the 2020 statistics, Keel emphasized the need for public safety support in the community to combat the rise in violent crime.

“Yet given this alarming surge, it is very disheartening to see so much effort and attention being directed to anti-public safety legislation that puts criminals back on the street and makes our communities less safe,” Keel said. “Efforts like sentencing reform often only serve to incentivize criminal conduct,” said Keel. “If we make the prosecution of drug crimes more difficult and we decrease the punishment for breaking the law, the public’s safety becomes more at risk. Drug crimes are inherently violent, and we should not incentivize this criminal behavior.”

The data being collected for the 2020 Uniform Crime Report is preliminarily showing the rate of violent crime has increased 5% compared to 2019 and 11% since 2015.

Property crimes have dropped approximately 6% in 2020 when compared to the previous year. This is the sixth consecutive year the state has seen the number of property crimes decline. The state has also seen a drop in rates of robbery and sexual battery as well.

“Now is the time to work together to improve our law enforcement efforts and capabilities,” Keel said. “Professional, accountable law enforcement makes our communities safer. We must work every day to show the public that we are worthy of the respect and trust given to us by the communities we serve. But the reality is, we cannot do it alone.”

The current data presented this afternoon is as of May 27. The full Crime in South Carolina 2020 report is being finalized and is expected to be released by the end of this summer.

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