Police see change in criminals

  • Follow Metro

Things aren't what they used to be.

When Richard Weaver was a young police officer on the beat in the early 1970s, he could go days without receiving an emergency call. Now the sheriff's office receives thousands daily, Maj. Weaver said.

"Some of these guys handle as many calls in one night as we would handle in a week, depending on where you were riding," he said. "Back then you could go all night long without getting a call."

Times and crimes have changed in Richmond County. In the past 30 years, the department's old hands say, everything from the use of drugs to the number of beats has grown by leaps and bounds.

The department has grown, too. Before the city and county consolidated in the mid-1990s, the sheriff's office and police department each had a few hundred employees. As of last week, the sheriff's office had 734 positions.

Maj. Weaver remembers when the city and county boundaries weren't the only dividing line. When he started, black deputies typically stuck to the black areas of town, and the white deputies stuck to white neighborhoods.

"It was pretty much segregated," he said. "I guess it was around '72 that they began to integrate them."

Maj. Gene Johnson started in law enforcement in 1965. In those days, heroin was big on the street, he said. Not so much anymore. He has watched the rise of crack cocaine and, more recently, illegal prescription drug use and is surprised by how it has affected all types of crime -- from burglaries to homicides.

"It's really gotten more heavy in the last 20 years and still increasing," said Maj. Johnson, who oversees the Richmond County jail. "Car break-ins, business break-ins, stealing copper, they'll do anything to get money."

And they're doing it while carrying more weapons, said Maj. Ken Autry, who started with the department in 1977. He spent years in the narcotics division, and now, as the head of the Criminal Investigation Division, he said he's surprised by the proliferation of weapons in the hands of criminals -- particularly drug dealers.

"Twenty to 25 years ago, when we were doing raids, it was rare that we ever found a gun in a house that we raided for drugs," said Maj. Autry, who blames the increase on gangs. "It was even rarer to find them on a traffic stop. Now it's commonplace to find one."

Last year, Maj. Autry helped spearhead the department's undercover-weapons seizure called Operation Augusta Ink. In that raid, the second-largest storefront weapon seizure in the history of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, about 400 guns were taken. The success of the operation and the number of weapons seized surprised many involved. So were the ages of many of those arrested.

Many were teenagers. Many more were juveniles.

The influence of gangs has made criminals out of children, Maj. Autry said. He points to a recent killing on Royal Street in which a 20-year-old man was shot to death by two 16-year-olds who broke into his home.

"In every category of crime you see juveniles being involved more now than you did 20 years ago," he said.

Sgt. Ray Hardin, a 31-year veteran of the department, also worked in narcotics. He doesn't remember dope dealers being armed to the degree they are today, but to him the number of teenagers being arrested is the most noticeable change in crime over the past 30 years.

"We never had 17-, 18- or 15-year-old children shooting each other for nothing," he said.

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons pointed to the spread of gang activity into rural communities. She said that in the past decade gangs have become more organized and criminally minded, creating a ripple effect of murders, robberies and illegal drug activities across the state.

"It's not focused on one particular area or one city," she said. "It could happen in Allendale, where it's mostly rural, or in Richland County, where the gang population is pretty significant and serious. It's not just bigger cities anymore, which is where you would have found them several years ago."

South Carolina reflects the national trend that saw violent crime decline by 50 percent since the mid-1980s and level out in the past three years, according to Michael R. Smith, a former police officer and head of the Criminology and Criminal Justice Department at the University of South Carolina.

Still, he said, the state has among the highest violent crime rates in the nation, with long-standing high rates in North Charleston, Orangeburg and Florence.

What's different now, he said, is that gang activity is spreading to midsize cities and rural areas.

"These are kids who are copying the gang culture that they see and read about on the Internet and through music," he said.

Mr. Smith noted that immigration is a factor in the changing gang landscape.

"As the Hispanic population in the U.S. increases, MS-13 is following suit, as far as gaining footholds in areas that it might not otherwise have been in," he said, referring to the gang made up of mostly Salvadoran nationals or first generation Salvadoran-Americans and immigrants from Central and South America. "That's true in South Carolina and probably true in Georgia, as well."

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

FBI CRIME STATISTICS

  1976 2006
Motor vehicle theft 210 1,860
Murder 23 18
Robbery 134 623
Burglary 1,421 2,890

In 1976, the oldest statistics it has available, the FBI collected numbers from the city of Augusta, which then had its own police department.


In 2006, the latest year available, the FBI provided countywide data from Richmond County.

Source: FBI

Comments (36)

Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
Riverman1
70994
Points
Riverman1 12/26/08 - 06:40 am
0
0

Those are staggering

Those are staggering statistics from the FBI. Crime has grown trememdously in Richmond County. Plus, we know from our own county stats that crime has continued to increase since 2006.

Riverman1
70994
Points
Riverman1 12/26/08 - 06:48 am
0
0

Looking at this again and

Looking at this again and trying to be fair to the RCSO, it says the stats from 1974 are only from the old City of Augusta, while those in 2006 are from the consolidated county. That's apples and oranges. In that context, the article makes no sense.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 12/26/08 - 08:03 am
0
0

This whole article is loaded

This whole article is loaded with selected information that misses the point. The national attitude change from self reliance to dependence and from self responsibility to entitlement is more responsible then any of the symptoms listed as causes. Even gangs are a symptom of the "depend on government" attitude that has been taught through our schools and media for the past 45 years. The "one size fits all" approach to social engineering that has been foisted on America is in the process of curing itself. Unfortunately, it involves destroying the country that tried this silly experiment.

willistontownsc
55
Points
willistontownsc 12/26/08 - 08:41 am
0
0

Wrong, pat. Dependence on

Wrong, pat. Dependence on government has nothing to do with the spike in gangs. If that was the case, then every single poor person would be part of a gang. Find something else to blame for this problem -- such as class warfare.

Georgiajack
0
Points
Georgiajack 12/26/08 - 09:07 am
0
0

The numbers from 1976 should

The numbers from 1976 should include the county to have any relevance. The odds of being a victim are much less than most people believe. The press is good at making people feel afraid.

usnvet
0
Points
usnvet 12/26/08 - 09:14 am
0
0

The governments aim is to

The governments aim is to make everything a crime and then we will all be criminals. Gangs are a direct result of our "war on drugs". Legalize drugs and gangs will disappear along with police departments need to arm themselves like small armies. The government is using drugs and the media to errode our constitutional rights to the point that we are dependent on THEM. At one time in America, all we had to fear was fear itself. Now the government and media wants you scared of everything so you will call them.

SCGAL53
0
Points
SCGAL53 12/26/08 - 09:16 am
0
0

I agree with williston

I agree with williston

dhd1108
1
Points
dhd1108 12/26/08 - 09:28 am
0
0

the spread of crime from the

the spread of crime from the inner city to subdivisions and rural areas can be attributed in part to section 8 vouchers. most of the scum that blight my otherwise lovely neighborhood are section 8. they don't take care of their yards, people coming and going at all hours of the day. i say drug test the lot and anyone found testing positive gets booted to the curb. no reason for my tax dollars to pay for housing for some crackhead. thats what our lovely bridges are for.

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 12/26/08 - 09:29 am
0
0

What impact will the arrival

What impact will the arrival of the "40%-ers" into adolescence have on juvenile crimes rates? their arrival at majority have on adult crimes rates? ("40%-ers" are the forty percent of infants who are born out-of-wedlock in GA annually.)

seymorebutts
0
Points
seymorebutts 12/26/08 - 09:46 am
0
0

maybe someday a real rain

maybe someday a real rain will come and wash all the skum away.

dhd1108
1
Points
dhd1108 12/26/08 - 09:51 am
0
0

taxi driver for the win

taxi driver for the win

RichmondCo_HoodResident
0
Points
RichmondCo_HoodResident 12/26/08 - 10:02 am
0
0

These are interesting

These are interesting figures; but what was the crime per capita in '76 compared to '06?

JohnQPublic
5
Points
JohnQPublic 12/26/08 - 10:35 am
0
0

It's the "sense of

It's the "sense of entitlement" that gets me. Young people think we owe them something. We don't. Get off of your lazy behinds, get an education, get a job, and get a life! The world does not revolve around you.

Little Lamb
40311
Points
Little Lamb 12/26/08 - 10:38 am
0
0

Many posters above have seen

Many posters above have seen the problem with articles like these. Today's reporters have poor reasoning skills and math skills, so they are at the mercy of public relations offices who hand them "statistics" to publish, laced with personal comments and anecdotes of government workers. Hugo, your question is one that Adam Folk should have asked of the RCSO public relations officer who served up this fluff piece.

MyOpinion2
5
Points
MyOpinion2 12/26/08 - 11:40 am
0
0

USAVET, you are dead ON! Drug

USAVET, you are dead ON! Drug use is a personal problem like alcohol and should be treated as such. Perhaps when our gov't runs out of money chasing these fools, then they will finally change. Govt throwing good money after bad.

Bizarro
13
Points
Bizarro 12/26/08 - 11:46 am
0
0

This is just class warfare

This is just class warfare like Willis talks about. You see you can legally be a drug dealer as per physician-pharmacist but the low class street dealer is considered a criminal. Both serving the public who apparently needs to be on drugs because they are all so screwed up. LOL.

crackertroy
540
Points
crackertroy 12/26/08 - 11:50 am
0
0

Also, keep in mind that crime

Unpublished

Also, keep in mind that crime statistics are some of the most misleading statistics out there. This ain't the NFL or Major League Baseball, many crimes aren't reported and crime statistics are often manipulated for political reasons. We have a limited idea what goes on out there.

whitescorpion
2
Points
whitescorpion 12/26/08 - 12:07 pm
0
0

Crime has spiraled out of

Crime has spiraled out of control in Augusta in the last 30 years. Gee... I wonder why. Compare the Augusta of the mid-seventies to the Augusta of today, there is one big difference, and I wouldn't advise my worst enemy to even visit Augusta unless they are carrying a weapon and are prepared to use it.

55 F-100
1
Points
55 F-100 12/26/08 - 12:10 pm
0
0

usnvet, your "legalize drugs"

usnvet, your "legalize drugs" and droning on and on that everything will be resolved from gang violence to jay-walking has finally won a convert with MyOpinion2. Maybe you two can team up in rehab and attempt to undo all the brain damage from huffing the fumes of multiple spray cans per day for the past few years. Drugs should NOT be leagalized, what needs to happen is for the convicted felon hood-rat thug maggots (Elmore) to be imprisoned and not placed on probation!!! And "Bizarro" you also need to join the rehab team with that pitiful "legal drug dealer as per physician-pharmacist" crap. Hey moron, a Pharmacist does not dispense heroin, cocaine, marijuana, GHB, PCP, etc. Clean up your act, CUZ, you're embarassing yourself.

Bizarro
13
Points
Bizarro 12/26/08 - 12:29 pm
0
0

55 F-100 I was mocking Willis

55 F-100 I was mocking Willis . Ad hominems aren't an argument-moron. Now apply that sentiment to willis and you'd be right on target.

iletuknow
7
Points
iletuknow 12/26/08 - 01:37 pm
0
0

Yes years ago we certainly

Yes years ago we certainly had them under control and everyone was for the better.

Riverman1
70994
Points
Riverman1 12/26/08 - 02:37 pm
0
0

This article based on faulty

This article based on faulty data was anything but a fluf piece by law enforcement. The article creates the impression that crime is drastically rising, but if you realize the crime stats were from the old small city of Augusta in 1972 compared to the consolidated entire county in 2006 you understand it is obviously a seriously flawed article. The writer and whoever at the RCSO didn't point out the differences in the size of the populations both made big mistakes.

SargentMidTown
8
Points
SargentMidTown 12/26/08 - 02:59 pm
0
0

whitescorpion Yes, Augusta of

whitescorpion Yes, Augusta of the mid seventies lacked generational welfare recipients. Project people had not been scattered into decent neighborhoods through section 8 rentals.
http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/memphis-crime

icanusethat
0
Points
icanusethat 12/26/08 - 04:02 pm
0
0

look how much crime we have

look how much crime we have in our own police department..yes they taking section 8 on brand new houses now. i agree they should get tested for drugs every month but you know the gov not gonna do that they to lazy.

usnvet
0
Points
usnvet 12/26/08 - 07:28 pm
0
0

Cops want more laws so they

Cops want more laws so they can make criminals out of as many people as they can. Why? Because that's how they get funding. They want to grow and grow so all their little rug rats will have tyrant jobs too when they grow up. Fewer laws and fewer cops is what we need. These freaks, with unfettered access to the press have turned everyday life in a free country into a virtual minefield of petty crimes that are now "felonies". All they have to do is charge you, then call the "crime trackers" on the local propaganda stations and you are hooked up for life with a criminal record. Free country my a**. If we aren't free to medicate ourselves, just how free are we?

Bizarro
13
Points
Bizarro 12/26/08 - 07:42 pm
0
0

It is evolution. We are

It is evolution. We are breeding a better criminal and more of them. This is inevitable.

55 F-100
1
Points
55 F-100 12/26/08 - 08:16 pm
0
0

To: usnvet, do the world a

To: usnvet, do the world a favor, and feel free to medicate yourself all the way to the "Elmore-brain dead" classification so that your inane, insipid, unqualified opinions and comments will no longer give fodder to others of your ilk who attempt to obfuscate what is a clear-cut elimination of the scum who seek to break the law and somehow believe that they are entitled to do so!!! Hurrah!!!

FallingLeaves
26
Points
FallingLeaves 12/26/08 - 08:55 pm
0
0

Let's all do like Major

Let's all do like Major Weaver did. Move out of the county after one too many murders on my street and make sure my new home is smack dab in the middle of 10 acres give or take a little. Sometimes the only thing left to do is leave.

FallingLeaves
26
Points
FallingLeaves 12/26/08 - 09:02 pm
0
0

I don't care which of the

I don't care which of the several races or the two genders my patrol officer is, as long as he or she does the right thing. I just ran into another officer today, who gave up on RCSO and moved with her husband to Florida, where they both now work in law enforcement. Last I heard, she was one of the shining examples of an exemplary officer in Richmond County. Too bad you had to lose her and her husband. I didn't know him, but I suspect he was another good one. I hate that we are losing good officers when it is evident that we need them so badly.

FallingLeaves
26
Points
FallingLeaves 12/26/08 - 09:13 pm
0
0

I don't really want to move,

I don't really want to move, as my 7:55 post might seem to indicate. But sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, to protect your family and possessions. Someone I've known for about 20 years that I lived near for about 7 years, had her back door kicked in. A long-time neighbor happened to spot the guy doing this, she immediately called the police, they arrived promptly and caught the guy red-handed. He had been a problem in the neighborhood for cocaine-trafficking (recidivist), escaping jail at one time, obstruction of a law enforcement officer, etc., you get the idea, yet, he's only been sentenced 5 years. Does this mean he'll be out in less than 2, like I see in the parole section of the paper all the time? Will the neighborhood he has intimidated for so long and his victims be notified of his release, or will we have to find out, like we did after we THOUGHT the SWAT team was going to take him away in handcuffs since he had a warrant on him and the next thing the neighbor saw was him walking down the street pushing a baby stroller. I wouldn't put it past him to stash drugs in there.

Back to Top

Loading...