DILLON, S.C. (WBTW) — Dillon County had the highest violent crime and property crime rates in South Carolina in 2022, according to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s crime report.

The violent crime rate in the county is up four points from 2021.

Members and leaders of the Dillon County community say the problem is a mix of gun control and a lack of opportunities for kids.

Fourth Circuit Solicitor Will Rogers said more young people are committing violent crimes now than before. He said Dillon County doesn’t have many opportunities for kids outside of school, which leads them down a road of crime.

News13 also spoke with Cierra Fletcher, a mother who lost her 15-year-old son, Janare, to a shooting in June 2022.

“I’ll never get to see my child again, no matter what. I’ll never hear his voice, I’ll never see his smile,” Fletcher said. “I’ll never get to see him go off to college or to the military, whatever he had chosen to do. Not even graduation.”

Dillon Police Chief David Lane said he’s just as concerned about crime rates as the public is. He said the department received a rural violent crime initiative grant of $300,000 that it will use to place cameras and license plate readers around the city to deter violent crime.

Empowerment in Action, led by a group of local pastors, think another step to deterring high crime in the area is by mending the relationship between law enforcement and the community through dialogue and programs.

The group was first formed with the help of late Dillon County Sheriff Douglas Pernell, and hopes to meet young people where they are — even if that’s in jail.

“We want to be able to go to these young people and just say ‘hey, be good and we want you to be good,’ but we have something for you,” James Orr said. “There’s a better life to offer you out there and you can make a difference in your own community.”

Empowerment in Action has also worked in nearby areas to decrease crime rates in places like Robeson County.

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Aundrea Gibbons joined the News13 team in May 2023 after graduating from Clemson University with bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and communication. Aundrea is a Marion native and graduated as salutatorian in 2019. Follow Aundrea on X, formerly Twitter, and read more of her work here.