Lexington County Sheriff James Metts wants to add facilities — including a DNA analysis laboratory — and more deputies to keep pace with increasing crime that growth is bringing.
Those are his goals as he becomes the longest-serving sheriff in South Carolina today.
Improvements that enable his staff of nearly 500 to cope with steady development is the challenge, as he begins his 41st year overseeing law enforcement in the 720-square-mile county.
A crime analysis lab — an admittedly pricy idea — will enable quicker detection of trace evidence for many more offenses, he said.
“If we can expand that way, we can do a better job,” Metts said.
Metts also wants to open new regional offices in the Chapin and Dixiana areas to enable faster reaction to calls for help.
Chapin, on the north shore of Lake Murray, is the scene of steady residential growth as county leaders prepare to open a high-technology industrial park there.
Dixiana, on the south side of the county, is home to the new State Farmers Market as well as near major industries, including the Amazon distribution center and Nephron Pharmaceuticals manufacturing plant.
If dreams for all the facilities come true, it will require adding more than 100 deputies and staff in stages through 2020, Metts said.
Even as tools become more sophisticated, it’s still important to team with residents and business owners in seeking to prevent crime so that the county remains appealing as a place to live and work, he said.
Metts, 66, can set the record for longevity if he serves the entire four-year term to which he was elected Nov. 6.
Victims advocate Laura Hudson described Metts as “one of the more forward-thinking sheriffs.”
One crime Metts warns may mushroom is home invasions motivated by the need to support families in a struggling economy than for drug use habits. “We could see more of that if things continue the way they are,” Metts said.