Monday, September 1 2014 1:31 PM EDT2014-09-01 17:31:17 GMT
The South Carolina Highway Patrol says a man on a motorcycle was killed in a crash Monday morning.Troopers say the crash occurred on Bookman Rd. about three miles west of Elgin at about 6 a.m. The motorcycleMore >>
The South Carolina Highway Patrol says a man on a motorcycle was killed in a crash Monday morningMore >>
STATE RADARINTERACTIVE RADARWEATHER ON YOUR MOBILE PHONE
Take a real-time look at where it's raining here in the Midlands and across the state with WIS First Alert radar.More >>
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) -
The Richland County Sheriff's Department Gang Unit was just awarded South Carolina's Gang Unit of the Year. It's a distinct honor that was awarded last month at the annual Gang Investigators Conference.
Law enforcement agencies from across the state attend the conference each year to learn about the current trends in gang activity.
So how bad is the gang problem in Richland County and what is the gang unit is doing to combat violence?
It starts, obviously, on the streets and in the community.
In one investigation where we followed along, deputies looked for a gang member and career criminal who was suspected of selling drugs and having illegal weapons. The Gang Unit thoroughly searched her Columbia apartment. She was not home, but her girlfriend was arrested.
Investigator Kelvin Griffin explained the situation to the woman.
"We bought drugs from this apartment. So, we're coming in this apartment. I'm giving you the opportunity to help yourself," said Griffin.
They searched every room, every cereal box, and even the cracks and compartments of cupboards and closets.
"With good information you'll find them right off hand," said Deputy Paul Melton. "It's hit or miss at times."
They even check the oven. After the thorough search, they find drugs and money -- more than a thousand dollars and some marijuana.
"Normally that's what you call re-up money. That's why they fold it the way they do. It's going to be a certain amount to re-up your drugs," explained Griffin.
There were no weapons and the suspect is no where to be found this time.
"Even though we didn't get her tonight, we have enough to go after her another day," said Gang Unit supervisor Staff Sgt. Vince Goggins.
"A lot of times, it's just about getting that message that we're not going to tolerate what they're doing in the community."
Goggins' gang unit has been recognized statewide for its proactive tactics targeting gang activity.
Sheriff Leon Lott says even though he doesn't talk about gangs as much anymore, he says they are real and they are here but it's not how it once was in the county.
Lott says his gang unit has forced the culture underground. There is still criminal activity, but he says it's no longer "The Bloody South" as portrayed in the 2010 History Channel series Gangland.
"We still have our murders, our houses being broken into, but they're not gang-related," said Lott. "Ten years ago our murders were gang-related."
In the last 10 years, trends have changed. Nationally, gangs are growing in number. In Richland County, Goggins says they're using social media a lot, but they're loosely organized and not necessarily tied to traditional gangs anymore like the Bloods and Crips.
"One of the more recent trends we're dealing with is just street gangs based off the area where they're living," said Goggins.
There are also motorcycle gangs, prison gangs, and hate group gangs.
"A majority of our gangs are now just the common street thug that wants to be a part of something," said Goggins.
According to the FBI, there are more than 100 named gangs in SC. Since 2009, gang membership increased most significantly in the northeast and southeast, but their influence and activity varies.
The National Gang Intelligence Center in Washington, D.C. tracks trends, assesses the threat level and gathers resources to help local law enforcement. Diedre Butler is the director of that group.
"We have to be just as proactive in our methods and our efforts to combat this as they migrate across the country because our children are at risk," said Butler.
Lott agrees. He says the recruiters are moving into elementary schools for fresh members.
"They recruit them young and they suck them in," said Lott.
They are recruited young, but the life of a gang member isn't long, according to Goggins.
"They're either in prison or dead," said Goggins.
In prison, the gangs continue. Karen Hair, the chief of special investigations at the state Corrections Department, says prison perpetuates gang activity.
"It strains our system because those gangs are able to coordinate efforts and introduce contraband into the prisons," said Hair. "They have a networking society."
Sheriff Lott says gangs are in mostly every school and every subdivision. You can't stereotype where gangs live or what they look like. It's a changing, underground culture, but working with the community is one way the Gang Unit tries to combat the violence.
"We know how to fight the gangs: be a parent; be a family. Give these kids something to do," said Lott.
Wednesday night, we investigate more about the culture of gang life. You'll hear from a former gang member about why he made the decision to join a gang and why he chose to get out.
Be sure to tune in tonight to the News at 11 for part two in this series.
Sunday, August 31 2014 4:12 PM EDT2014-08-31 20:12:10 GMT
CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – Dozens of videos are all over Twitter from parties held at Coastal Carolina University. Many of the posts lead back to a group called I'm Shmacked. It makes videos at universitiesMore >>
Dozens of videos are all over social media from parties held at Coastal Carolina University.More >>
Friday, August 29 2014 12:21 PM EDT2014-08-29 16:21:29 GMT
An Alexander County woman is facing charges after deputies say she molested a four-year-old at a church while services were happening. According to the Alexander County Sheriff's Office, 52-year-old CarolMore >>
According to the Alexander County Sheriff's Office, 52-year-old Carol Diane Britto, of Taylorsville, was charged with one count of first degree statutory sex offense and one count of indecent liberties with a child.More >>
Monday, September 1 2014 7:54 PM EDT2014-09-01 23:54:12 GMT
Whitney Hempsey remembered what doctors told her before she gave birth to her second child years ago. "It's like, 'Hey, are you tired of being pregnant?" Hempsey recalled. "'We can give you this and youMore >>
Mothers come together at Improving Birth Rally in an effort to stop rushed births.More >>
Monday, September 1 2014 6:18 PM EDT2014-09-01 22:18:34 GMT
Under a bright Carolina sun, citizens across the state enjoy going out and making a few waves on the lakes. Some like Johnathan Crossland enjoy fishing as a method of recreation and relaxation for a while.More >>
Boaters and law enforcement officials provide safety advice when making waves on the lakes.More >>
Monday, September 1 2014 3:55 PM EDT2014-09-01 19:55:16 GMT
As America's population of World War II veterans continues to shrink, respect for their role in history appears to be growing. Among those heroes are the thousands of troops who brought Hitler's EuropeMore >>
As America's population of World War II veterans continues to shrink, respect for their role in history appears to be growing.More >>