SLED report shows “alarming” statewide increase in violent crime, murders in 2020

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Published: Nov. 9, 2021 at 7:52 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - New data released this week from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division’s 2020 crime report shows what the division calls an “alarming” increase in violent crime in the state.

SLED statistics show that murders statewide increased 22 percent in 2020, with the murder rate in the state now the highest it’s been since 1993.

According to SLED Chief Mark Keel, gangs, drugs, and criminals’ access to guns play a critical role in this uptick in murders.

In Columbia, Police Chief Skip Holbrook said around four percent of the population are committing 80 percent of the violent crimes in the city.

“We’ve got to keep our foot on the gas pedal when it comes to violent crime reduction,” he said.

Holbrook made the remarks today at a news conference outlining the city’s efforts to reduce violent crime through its Real-Time Crime and Emergency Operations Center.

He said the Real-Time Crime Center is “an extension of our frontline officers,” allowing the department to leverage technology and respond to incidents in real-time throughout day-to-day operations.

SLED’s report details a statewide murder rate that’s increased 48 percent since 2017. There were 373 murders in the state in 2017, and that number has steadily increased each year since. There were 552 murders statewide in 2020.

In Richland County, murders were down from 53 in 2019 to 42 in 2020, but the murder rate is up 27 percent since 2017.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin believes says one of his takeaways from the report is that there are too many guns on the street.

“When you have a country in which you have more firearms on our streets than you actually have people, we got a problem,” he said. “And we need more help. We need more help from the State Legislature, we need more help from the national government, the federal government, and we need more help from each and every one of our citizens doing our share.”

Holbrook acknowledged that Columbia does have a “gun problem,” adding that CPD has “never tip-toed around that subject.”

He said he’s encouraged that gun murders are down in the city compared to last year, but concerned about a significant rise in nonfatal shootings. According to CPD data, there have currently been 11 gun murders in 2021, and 69 nonfatal shootings.

“We know we’ve got a violent crime problem and we’ve had a violent crime problem for over a decade,” Holbrook said. “We are making progress. I think how we’re leveraging technology is what’s allowing us to see some gains, but really holding the line at a time when we’re seeing unprecedented violence throughout the state and nationally.”

CPD is working to reduce violent crime through the Real-Time Crime Center, which utilizes ShotSpotter and a series of cameras placed strategically in nearly 200 locations around the city.

RELATED STORY | CPD reports violent crime increase thus far in 2021, including nonfatal shootings

“This Emergency Operations Center is for crisis,” Holbrook said. “Natural disaster, serious incidents and it’s ready to spin up at any moment. But we know that we’re not in that crisis emergency mode every single day, but we are in a police response operational mode every day and that’s what this center represents.”

ShotSpotter is a series of sensors that covers a seven-square-mile area and alerts officers when gunshots are detected.

RELATED | Columbia police unveil new technology alerting officers to gunfire

Holbrook said the department is also investing in 200 additional cameras, which will provide advanced capability and connectivity.

Keel added that the findings of SLED’s report “should concern every citizen in the state.”

“We must all work together to combat violent crime across this state and that means working with our elected officials, with our criminal justice system partners, and with the community,” he added. “We must have community support, community interaction, community cooperation, and community investment to truly make an impact on crime.”

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