DARLINGTON COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — A violent influx of gun crime in the Pee Dee area has highlighted the importance of inter-agency collaboration for local law enforcement leaders.
“The invisible line at the city limits doesn’t prevent people with ill intent from coming or going,” said Lt. Mark Blair, a spokesperson for the Hartsville Police Department.
Blair said two-thirds of the people the department arrests live outside city limits. Collaboration with other agencies, such as the Darlington County Sheriff’s Office and the Darlington Police Department, he said, is “invaluable.”
As of Wednesday morning, there have been at least 40 shootings this year in Darlington County, according to data analyzed and tracked by News13. Of those, about 17 have been in the Hartsville area and 13 were in the Darlington area.
Certain areas in the Pee Dee region have emerged as hotspots for gun violence. Three shootings have been in the Rose Lees Crossroads area. Two shootings on Hunter Drive in Hartsville happened 10 days apart.
There have been three shootings in the Hartsville area this year that happened within a 3.86-acre space.
In Darlington, seven of this year’s shootings have happened within .67 square miles. Two of those ended in deaths after 17-year-old Kwelik Bacote was killed in a Feb. 12 shooting in a parking lot and when 22-year-old Shanice Williams died after being shot on Jan. 7 while leaving work on Oak Street.
There have been at least 91 non-fatal and 48 fatal shootings this year within News13’s coverage area, which includes Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Horry, Marion and Marlboro counties in South Carolina, along with Robeson and Scotland counties in North Carolina.
Darlington County Sheriff James Hudson Jr. said the people involved in the shootings tend to move from county to county.
“Some of the players are the same,” he said.
Hudson said it’s hard to say if the individuals are affiliated with a gang, due to the complicated definition of what counts as a gang, and that it’s hard to prove that a suspect is affiliated with one.
“We do believe we have a group of men and women who are committing crimes throughout the county,” he said.
He urges the community to call authorities about a shooting as soon as one happens, instead of waiting 30 minutes or longer. He said witnesses can speak to authorities anonymously.
Blair said one of the Hartsville Police Department’s investigators works with a team on gun crimes.
“This position makes taking gun cases federally much easier for us to do,” he said. “Getting cases in front of the federal court system can sometimes go faster than the state courts, and when someone serves federal time for gun crimes, they wind up serving more time.”
Several years ago, the department combined its criminal investigations and narcotics units. Blair said the change happened because there is usually crossover between drug, weapon and property crimes.
He said that the Hartsville Police Department is working with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to identify gun and shell casings used in different crimes across the county. Hartsville police are also meeting with other investigators in the area to share information in a team setting.
“Some gun crimes are hard to prevent,” Blair said. “When two people get in a fight and one decides to use a gun, that’s hard to stop. It’s the price of angry people bringing guns into their disputes. But when drug dealers are shooting each other over territories, money, competition or old-fashioned gun violence — those are things we can help prevent through investigation and prosecution.”
The map below displays shootings that have happened in Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Horry, Marion and Marlboro counties. It also includes shootings in Scotland and Robeson counties in North Carolina.
Shootings are listed even if no one was injured in the incident. Fatal shootings are marked in red. Non-fatal shootings are marked in blue.
Click on a marker for more details about a shooting. For some shootings, a specific address was not provided by police, and the marker will show a city center or an approximate area as the location of the incident.
Some markers are extremely close together and have to be zoomed in on in order to be distinguished from each other.
The map is updated daily with the most recent information.