Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – Across the United States, there have been many calls for governments to “defund” or decrease the budgets of law enforcement agencies. This has been in response to several instances where a small percentage of law enforcement officers have acted inappropriately while on duty. As the budgets and staffing levels of law enforcement agencies in these areas have dropped, so has officer morale. As all of the aforementioned resources have plummeted, in many cases crime has skyrocketed.
In Lexington County, things look very different. As support for law enforcement in other areas has plummeted, the citizens of this area have rallied around the blue. Residents have not only treated officers to meals, snacks, and kind words, in some cases they have left anonymous notes of thanks on patrol vehicles. Meanwhile, in other cities as close as Columbia, patrol cars have been maliciously set afire as rioters flooded into the streets.
In the 2020/2021 budget that was passed by Lexington County Council in June of this year, our elected leaders showed how strongly they support public safety with their budget pens. According to Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon, they worked closely with the leadership teams at the sheriff’s department to add an unprecedented number of law enforcement positions and other upgrades to the department Koon commands with a minimal tax increase to the citizens of the community.
Sheriff Koon recently said that the additional positions will provide more resources in much-needed parts of the county.
According to the sheriff, the Irmo area will be getting a second resident deputy. The resident deputy program provides an invaluable opportunity to have a deputy assigned directly to specific communities. Those deputies are familiar with those neighborhoods and their residents. They also know the specific issues those communities may be facing. These deputies do not work typical patrol shifts, instead they work a shift that’s more in tune with the specific needs of the communities they are assigned to.
Koon also said that two additional deputies will be assigned to the South Region of the county in order to adapt to the growing population of that expansive area. Headquartered out of Pelion, Captain Kevin Howard oversees an expansive region that can border Aiken, Orangeburg, or Calhoun Counties in various places.
In the past, because of staffing restrictions, deputies that may be patrolling north of Pelion could suddenly be enroute to a crime southeast of Swansea. Certainly, the extra help in that region is necessary and appreciated.
The West Region based out of Gilbert will receive four additional deputies due to the increase in residents in the area. Captain Jennifer Burns oversees this popular and growing region.
In that area, the department was also allotted funding to provide Lexington School District One with two additional School Resource Officers. These are certainly needed as the area’s student population grows and several new schools are under construction.
Among a few of the other additions and upgrades were three additional investigator positions on the Crime Reduction Unit. The CRU proactively investigates gangs and violent repeat offenders in Lexington County, concentrating on violent offenders who use and carry firearms.
Lexington County is growing, and it doesn’t appear as if that will slow anytime soon. As we head into the future with excitement and anticipation, it is incumbent upon Sheriff Koon and his staff to join with the county council and make plans to meet the needs of our current and new neighbors while laying the groundwork for what’s to come. Sheriff Koon said that together, the staff of the sheriff’s department and the council both are dedicated to making Lexington County a safer place for all to live and prosper.