293 shootings this year in our area – Families of victims, law enforcement want change

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Myrtle Beach, S.C. (WBTW) — Local officers are addressing the rise in shootings seen across the News13 viewing area.

So far this year, the News13 viewing area has seen 293 shootings. More than 103 of those shooting were deadly, leaving grieving mothers behind. The coverage area includes Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Horry, Marion and Marlboro counties in South Carolina, along with Scotland and Robeson counties in North Carolina.

“They are hurting to keep hearing this violence that’s continually going on,” said Elizabeth Bowens. Bowens is the president of S.C. Mothers Against Violence.

Bowens said more moms are reaching out for support. They are experiencing a pain Bowens knows all too well. “It is an ongoing process because you don’t heal from that. Um – it’s just – you don’t heal,” Bowens said.

Bowens lost her son Anthony to gun violence in 2005. Her nephew, CJ, was killed in a shooting just two years ago.

“It’s a tragedy for our community, not just for the families, not just for that neighborhood,” said Captain Mike Brandt with the Florence Police Department.

Brandt said his department has responded to more violent crimes over the last few years. Florence follows Horry, Darlington, and Robeson counties with the most deadly shootings this year.

“The network of law enforcement agencies partnering together, and the individual agencies being an active community member, along with our residents – we can get to the point where we’re ahead of the shootings,” Brandt said.

Brandt said many shootings are gang or drug-related, involving stolen guns. He recommends keeping guns in a safe place inside your home to help prevent shootings.

Brandt said willingness from the community is crucial. “Every case hinges on that relationship, really. Unless we catch someone in the act, we have to have evidence but we also have to have witness testimony,” he said.

Brandt tells News13 the Florence Police Department is working with local and state law enforcement agencies and Pee Dee Mental Health to combat violent crimes. He also said officers are serving as mentors at local schools to build better relationships in the community.

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