SUMTER, SC (WIS) - Sumter Police Chief Patty Patterson said Monday Sumter investigators are dealing with the city's highest number of murders since 1992.
The figures came after Patterson announced the results of "Operation Sumter Surprise", a crime sweep involving the State Law Enforcement Division, the FBI, the Secret Service, the US Marshals, the ATF, state probation agents and the Sumter Police department.
Sumter's highest number of murders was nine -- a record set in 1992 -- according to Patterson. Sumter police worked eight murders in 2009, five murders in 2008, and four murders each during 2007 and 2006.
"Overall, the homicides have been criminals taking out criminals," Patterson said. "In reference to bad dope deals or whatever that have gone bad and they have taken out their own, I guess if you will, competition. But, that's all over the country, so Sumter's not the only place that's taking place."
During the operation, state and federal agents arrested 334 suspects and filed 409 charges in the arrests.
Patterson said she contacted SLED director Reggie Lloyd last year to help address some of the crime problems in Sumter
"It's definitely not a means of crime being out of control, so to eliminate that question; it's not out of control," said Patterson. "There are a whole lot of other areas that have a lot more going on than we do, although like I said earlier on, one incident is too many."
Patterson said the number of arrests during the 5-month-long operation is higher than average because of the number of law enforcement working Sumter and making arrests in places outside Sumter police's jurisdiction.
Sumter County Sheriff's office was not a part of the operation, according to the press releases handed out Monday. However, Patterson said many of the operation's cases involved the sheriff's office.
"We're fed up. You wanted our attention, you got it," SLED director Reggie Lloyd said Monday, referring to the message the operation is sending to the criminal element working around Sumter.
Lloyd called the operation a success, but said there was more work to do in Sumter.
"We're all committed to making life an ever-loving, miserable hell for you," said Lloyd. "If you do not go to jail, we're going to drive you out of this community."
Patterson says Sumter neighborhoods have taken notice to the crime trends in Sumter.
"People are more involved and engaged in the neighborhood watch program than they have been in the past," said Patterson. "We have enhanced our neighborhood watch programs, probably three-fold from what they were."
So far in 2010, Sumter police have worked two homicide cases. The latest was a shooting at a Sumter hotel that killed one man and seriously injured his brother. Sumter police arrested six suspects in that case.
After the press conference, WIS requested the number of reported shootings in Sumter for 2008, 2009, and so far in 2010. Police Maj. Alvin Holston is working on pulling the number of reports. We'll update the story with those figures as soon as they're made available.
Operation Sumter Surprise will continue, according to Patterson. The chief did not say when the operation was expected to finish.