The Columbia Police Department and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department met Friday afternoon to announce the creation of a joint gang task force aimed at curbing gang-related crimes in the city.
“This is an example of when good men combine, evil will fall,” said Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook.
According to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, the two departments have had success with their individual gang units, but with the joint task force, they will be even more effective. The joint task force will transcend jurisdictional impediments that previously served as a road block for the departments’ individual units.
“We realize that the number one challenge in the Columbia area is our gangs,” Lott said. “If we can work together, we can be so much more effective.”
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The joint task headquarters will be located at 1535-D Broad River Road, in the Boozer Shopping Center. RCPD’s gang unit has been located there for two years in space donated by the Boozer family. Joining the six detectives that currently operate out of the headquarters will be five detectives and a supervisor from the CPD.
Even though the headquarters is located near the St. Andrews area, Lott said that it is not the ground zero for gang activity in the city.
“When we have a gang, it impacts all of us in the county as well as the city of Columbia,” Lott said.
Even though Lott said he could not report any statistical information regarding gang-related crimes, he did say that a majority of the crimes committed had some type of gang affiliation.
Other departments, including the Cayce Police Department, the Department of Corrections, Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, the S.C. Attorney General’s Office and the 5th Circuit Solicitor’s Office, will aid the joint task force as it moves forward.
According to Lott, last summer was one of the worst summers for gang violence. He attributes that to the complacency of the community and lack of conversation about gangs in the area.