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A "tour" of duty, no help needed

web posted May 7, 2007
COLUMN – I have heard comments that the need for additional deputies is overstated, and some even question if any are needed at all. When people are challenged with the examples of the recent multiple bomb threats, missing children, and other crisis situations they discount them as rare, even though the number of such events is in double digits in the last twelve months. So, join me for about two hours of “routine patrol” on Saturday night with Edgefield County’s finest and let me know if additional deputies are needed.

Let’s start our tour just before midnight Saturday, May 5. Deputies are notified of at least a dozen four-wheel drive trucks and other cars spinning tires and cursing at the employee closing a Merriwether store. A neighbor also called to report the ruckus. These are local charter high school teens that are well known in the community. A deputy is dispatched but by the time he arrives the kids are gone, at least for the moment.

Another deputy is out corralling at least eight cows that are wandering in the foggy roadway on Chaves Creek, off Moore Road.

Just for good measure, let’s throw in a structure fire that is fully involved on the 900 block of Youngblood Road. Edgefield and Johnston Fire Departments are dispatched and put out the fire in an hour. Edgefield Police send an officer to respond until a deputy can arrive. It seems the deputies are a bit tied up and behind on calls plus it takes time to go from one end of the county to the other. But, they don’t need any help.

Sounds like a busy night already does it not? Well, we haven’t even finished the first hour.

Remember those fine high school students from earlier? They’re back.

A report of a two-car crash on Martintown Road just past Millcreek Road comes into dispatch. It seems one of the cars has five passengers, and what a lovely group these five were. At least two jumped out of the car after the crash to try to hide the remnants of a case of Bud Light in the ditch across the road. Apparently they were trying to pass three cars when they discovered they missed the turn onto Millcreek Road and collided with one of the cars they were passing.

Luckily no one was injured. Of course, once news of the crash spread to the nearby party, over a hundred teens gathered on Millcreek Road jumped into at least fifty cars and started a mass exodus from the Millcreek Subdivision. At times almost causing additional collisions.

Busy enough for you? Why, let’s throw in a guy with a gun that pops off about eight to ten rounds before deputies are able to find him and secure the weapon in yet another part of the county. Keep in mind, we have not finished our tour, we have barely finished the first hour.

The deputies are now called back to the location of the fire. The owner of the barn that burned down is missing. He cannot walk unassisted and left the scene on a tractor headed down a muddy road into the woods. Deputies search deep into the woods down a muddy logging road to recover the man and return him to safety.

While deputies are busy there our local Merriwether vandals are out in force, perhaps angry their party was ruined, and begin smashing mailboxes in Millcreek and other nearby locations. A caller states the people doing the vandalism are still in the area. They get away because no deputy is close by.

I could go on for about another 600 words and never finish this two-hour tour. In fact, I never finished one hour. Several other calls are also being handled during this time, most being dispatched to deputies as another “call pending”.

Arrests are made during this time period, in which each one takes an officer off the road to transport and book a person into custody. That sounds like a lot of work for six or seven deputies covering over 500 square miles doesn’t it?

Try doing it with three deputies, 365 days out of the year, that are paid a little more than double what our county councilmen get paid to show up to work twelve times a year for about one and a half hours.

It makes me wonder how much of our money the councilmen would be willing to spend if they had to face being shot or killed when they arrived at work as each deputy does countless times a shift. I well remember the zoning debate in 1998-2000 when the county council had more deputies protecting them from hundreds of angry residents just wanting to speak their mind at each meeting than they have patrolling our streets today protecting an elderly couple from being kidnapped at gun-point during an armed robbery of their home.

Maybe one day the average taxpayer and resident will be somewhat as important as our grandiose elected council members and we may then become worthy of such protections and privilege. After all, we just pay for it.

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