Pubdate: Sun, 31 Aug 2003
Source: Times and Democrat, The (SC)
Contact:  2003, The Times and Democrat
Author: Richard Walker, Staff Writer


Orangeburg County residents on the front lines agree with statistics
that show crime has fallen by 22 percent in two years, but they urge
officials to heed a warning of coming trouble.

According to Justice Planning Associates of Columbia, the number of
serious crimes in Orangeburg County has steadily decreased since the
inception of the Violent Crime Reduction Project in 2000.

The statistics shows a dramatic decrease in serious offenses, a number
with which Whittaker Parkway resident Cullie Boneparte agrees.

"The numbers were low," Boneparte said. "I'd say we've had a drop-off
(in crime) of 45 to 50 percent. I take time to ride the neighborhood.
I call me a deputy if I see something wrong."

Adjacent to Whittaker Parkway area is New Brookland where Annie
Jamison resides. Once, the area was a location where passing motorists
were openly solicited by drug dealers.

Through efforts such as the People's Assault on Drugs begun in 1989
and the more recent Violent Crime Reduction Project, crime has been
reduced, Jamison said.

"It's much better than it was eight years ago," Jamison said. "We
don't have the problems we once had."

The project, administered by Justice Planning Associates, is designed
to change mentality and aimed at implementing a zero tolerance for
crime at all levels of society, from law enforcement on down to a juror.

While the violent crime statistics encompassed the entire county, the
area around Orangeburg stretching from New Brookland to Sprinkle
Avenue has been a hot spot of violence.

With the number of drug-related offenses and homicides in county,
Orangeburg had been dubbed "The Dodge City of the East."

Through crime waves and calm, Boneparte, a 30-year Whittaker Parkway
resident has remained a determined Crime Watch block captain for the
past seven years. Despite what he believes is a definite drop in
criminal offenses, Boneparte sees trouble brewing just over the horizon.

"Gangs are real strong in Orangeburg, in our area," Boneparte said.
"And I'm trying to keep these jokers out of my neighborhood. We don't
want those kids coming in our neighborhood. I worked hard out here,
and I don't want to see it go down."

Traffic-control signs have already been replaced after a group of
juveniles painted them with gang-type symbols. Less than 10 days ago,
several senior citizens along Whittaker Parkway had their mailboxes

"You try to tell these young people," Boneparte said. "I tell them,
'They got a place to send you if you won't listen to me.' We got rules
to follow. The Lord has laws; this country has laws."

And Boneparte knows gangs.

"I used to live in New York; I know what to look for," he said. "I'm
going to fight this thing all I can."

The next meeting of the Whittaker Parkway Crime Watch will be at 7
p.m. Sept. 9 at the Whittaker Parkway Elementary School.

Jamison said she doesn't feel qualified to offer an opinion on the
accuracy of the numbers released last week. However, the longtime
leader of the New Brookland Improvement League said she feels that
while major crime in her area has diminished greatly, it's the smaller
crimes that appear to be growing.

"In my neighborhood for the past two years, we're seeing the children
hanging out on the street corners in this area," she said. "I don't
know what they're doing, but it looks like they're up to no good."

A little more than a decade ago, the residents of New Brookland made a
stand against a plague that was claiming their community. But while
Harmon Park has been retaken for the children, the scourge of every
community is still visible, Jamison said.

While serious offenses are down, drugs remain. Jamison said she hopes
that is a fact that hasn't escaped the attention of law enforcement

"I feel they are counting some of their blessings," she said. "But I
hope they're not calling the vicious crimes the little crimes and
letting down."

Ironically, as Jamison voiced her concerns Thursday, it appeared as if
her plea for help with drug dealers had been heard.

Following a two-day trial, a jury deliberated for less than an hour
before returning a pair of guilty verdicts against a Pops Drive man.

Dyuppa Garner, 22, of 123 Pops Drive, Orangeburg, was found guilty of
second-offense distribution of crack cocaine and distribution of crack
cocaine within the proximity of a school or park.

A part of the Violent Crime Reduction Project, Circuit Court Judge
Edward Cottingham said he and jurors like those Thursday are sending a
message to drug dealers in Orangeburg.

"As I've said before, the jurors are the conscience of the community,"
Cottingham said. "By your verdict (Thursday), you have said drug
dealers will not be permitted in your community."

Cottingham had scathing words for and about Garner.

"He's one of those on Sprinkle Avenue and dealing on Sprinkle Avenue,"
Cottingham said. "Based on the evidence, I don't think a jury of your
kinfolk wouldn't have found you guilty. You drug dealers used to laugh
about it (the judicial system). They'd say two years ago, 'You ain't
going to convict me.' But it's a new day!"

After speaking to the defendant, Cottingham passed

"It is the judgment of this court that you serve 15 years," Cottingham

When Cottingham took the bench in January, Orangeburg General Sessions
court had a backlog of 1,850 cases. Added to that number were
approximately 200 cases a month.

Part of the Justice Planning strategy was to reduce that backlog.
Added court sessions have brought the backlog down to approximately
1,300 cases.

"I think the first thing that has speeded things along is the two
weeks (of court sessions) has been expanded by 50 percent," Cottingham
said. "I think the second thing is tracking the cases."

The new tracking system has ended roll call and holds a defendant
accountable for a choice of trial or plea.

Many offenders appearing in General Sessions Court have numerous
charges against them, some committed while out on bond.

With the court system turning cases over quicker, officials predict
crime statistics should show further decline as repeat offenders are
incarcerated sooner.

Referring to South Carolina Chief Justice Jean Toal's comments last
week concerning Orangeburg, Jamison said she is optimistic -- for now.

"I think they just called it (Orangeburg) the 'bright and shining
star,' " Jamison said. "I just hope they don't let up."
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