Vandalism shows need for more officers

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Growth has outpaced law enforcement

By Jenny Hartley

INDIAN LAND – Kevin Sexton has lost about $65,000 to vandals at his business over the past year. Sexton, owner of Architectural Stone Concepts in 521 Perimeter Business Park, said teenagers are coming from the nearby Brookchase neighborhood to vandalize his business, which manufactures columns, railings, decking materials and other items for high-end residential and commercial developments. The most expensive incident happened last year, when the cab of his brother’s tractor-trailer was set on fire. The damage was estimated at $34,000, and the truck had to be totaled. Someone has also broken into the office twice and stolen computers. Sexton is working with the Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office to reduce the chances that his business, which he’s owned for almost 10 years, isn’t a target again. “The sheriff’s deputies are trying to get on top of it,” Sexton said. “They’re doing whatever they can.” Sheriff Barry Faile said he’s aware of the problems at Sexton’s business and others in the area. “We’re trying to make an arrest. We just haven’t been able to,” Faile said. Sexton said the rash of incidents at his business, and others at the business park at the Blue Dot and Thomas Brothers concrete plants, points to a larger problem. There is too much growth in Indian Land, and not enough deputies to patrol the Panhandle, he said.  “It’s the growth,” Sexton said. “And the (sheriff’s office) is being overwhelmed by the growth up here.”         Faile said he knew that growth in Indian Land would be an issue he’d have to grapple with when he took office. Faile said he’s reorganized the department and now has three deputies per shift to cover the growing Panhandle.  But he knows with the new Lowe’s home improvement store set to open in a few months, a Wal-Mart Supercenter set to break ground and a new retail development under way across from Sun City Carolina Lakes, there will continue to be a need for more officers in Indian Land. But it won’t be this year. Money will be tight for the sheriff’s office and many other county departments for 2009-10, and Faile’s department is already getting an influx of officers approved last year, after the arson at the Lancaster County Courthouse. Those new deputies will cover court duties only, although that will free up more manpower to work patrol, Faile said. Faile said he’s also waiting for a new class of officers to graduate from the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy so he can put them on patrol, and then build a Community Action Team from his veteran deputies. These deputies will work on issues and criminal activity in specific areas of the county. “It means we could have up to 11 officers working per shift at times,” Faile said. Faile also said he has no office-bound supervisors, including himself, at the sheriff’s office. It won’t be unheard of to ocasionally see the sheriff out working patrol. “We do what we have to do to get the job done,” Faile said. County Councilman Larry McCullough, who represents Indian Land, said he’s gotten calls from a few residents in the very tip of the Panhandle who are concerned about law enforcement coverage. McCullough, who took office in January, said he’d like to talk to Faile about the sheriff’s office’s future needs. Like Faile, McCullough realizes that the commercial growth coming to the Panhandle will mean more calls for service in Indian Land. “It could create a need for additional officers,” McCullough said. “We need to take a look at that.” At the same time, McCullough said Faile has worked hard to reorganize the department to ensure that Indian Land has three deputies per shift.

“He’s been doing some good stuff,” McCullough said. “He’s found some savings and reinvested that savings in other areas.”