Pee Dee law enforcement weighs in on SLED’s 2020 crime report

Pee Dee Crime

FLORENCE, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s 2020 crime report released on Monday found that the state’s murder rate increased 22.1% while aggravated assaults were up 10.1%.

The statistics also showed the rate of violent crime increased 6% compared with 2019 and 9.5% since 2015. In addition, property crimes continued to decrease, except for arson, which increased 22.7% after steadily declining in 2018 and 2019.

Property crimes dropped 5.9% in 2020 when compared with the previous year. It is the ninth consecutive year the number of property crimes has declined.

“I continue to say that even though I am pleased to see the continued decline in the rate of property crimes, I am extremely concerned by the increasing amount of violence in our state, specifically the number of murders and assaults,” SLED Chief Mark Keel said. “We have seen murders increase 52.9% over the past five years. The final calculations for this report should concern every citizen in our state.”

Florence Police Capt. Mike Brandt said a huge issue officials saw was the increase of reported aggravated assaults from 176 in 2019 to 2236 in 2020. In 2019, the department saw seven murders. That number dropped to six in 2020.

Brandt said the department is working with SLED, the Florence County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies to find ways to decrease crime rates.

“With that shared information, we can then leverage that information and start better enforcing and better prosecuting a lot of these incidents and putting people in jail,” Brandt said.

Hartsville police Lt. Mark Blair said his department is also working with other agencies, like the Darlington Sheriff’s Office, with the same goal of decreasing crime. In 2019, the department had no reported murders, but number rose to four in 2020. Three people were shot and killed at Macs Lounge, and one person at East Park Complex.

“All within the space of about a week or so, and we had to look at all those and try to figure out the players in those events and what charges we can bring to them, and then use that information going through the rest of the year and try to prevent any further violent crimes,” Blair said.

He said the department has seen trends with these crimes.

“Of course, there’s always gangs out there, but it seems like more people are resulting to guns for whatever reason,” Blair said. “Someone feeling like they’ve been dishonored or disrespected.”

Brandt also said community involvement is another way to fight this increase.

“The more rapidly law enforcement is involved in an incident, the greater the results could be,” he said.

The full South Carolina crime report can be found on SLED’s website.

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