Pubdate: Wed, 22 Jan 2003
Source: State, The (SC)
Copyright: 2003 The State
Author: Kimathi Lewis


He Says Drugs In South Congaree Can't Be Blamed On Neighboring County

Don't blame Orangeburg County for any drug problems in South Congaree, 
Orangeburg Sheriff Larry Williams said Tuesday.

At a South Congaree Town Council meeting Monday night, state Sen. Jake 
Knotts said the town needs a strong police presence because of problems 
from neighboring Orangeburg County.

Lawbreakers -- especially those with drugs -- are driving through small 
towns in Lexington County to avoid recent tougher law enforcement in 
Orangeburg and along I-26, he said.

But Knotts' comments didn't sit well with Williams.

"I don't know how anyone can target a particular county and say that's 
where the drug problem is coming from," Williams said. "I don't know what 
directive motivated that statement."

Williams said his deputies arrest people on drug charges from other 
counties, including Lexington.

One of the main secondary routes drug criminals use is S.C. 302, which cuts 
through South Congaree, Knotts, R-Lexington, said at the meeting.

About 200 residents also attended the meeting, many of them angered by what 
they said was the South Congaree Police Department's overzealous traffic 

Residents said that, in some instances, police are pulling drivers over for 
minor traffic offenses in order to search vehicles. Many said the policing 
has given South Congaree a negative image.

South Congaree is about 16 miles north of the Orangeburg County line.

The Lexington County Sheriff's Department said the only increase in drug 
activity that deputies have noticed in southern Lexington County involves 
methamphetamine. And that's homegrown, spokesman John Allard said.

The sheriff's department does not document where drugs come from, Allard said.

Knotts said Orangeburg County is doing a good job with the federal money it 
received to combat one of the highest crime rates in the country.

A $593,000 federal grant was given to Orangeburg in 2001 to fight violent 
crimes, said Rob McManus of the state Department of Public Safety.

In 1999, FBI data showed that the county's violent crime rate per 10,000 
residents was three times the national average, McManus said.

At the same time, he said, Orangeburg County's crime clearance rate was the 
state's lowest.

Knotts said in an interview Tuesday that, based on his experience as a 
former police officer, drugs are a big reason for Orangeburg's crime rate.

"South Congaree has had a problem with drugs, but it increased because of 
the strong presence of police in Orangeburg."

He said drug dealers seek out places that don't have a strong police presence.

"From the statistical amount of drug cases, there is certainly an influx 
coming to South Congaree."

South Congaree police Chief Jason Amodio said most of the drug arrests 
officers make involve people from out of town.

"A fair number of them come from Orangeburg, Columbia and West Columbia," 
Amodio said, adding he has seen people from as far away as New York.

In the last six months, South Congaree police have made 439 drug arrests 
after traffic stops, Amodio said. In the six months before that, he said, 
277 drug arrest were made during traffic stops.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Larry Stevens