Twenty years after creating his first community action teams (CATs) to go into Richland County’s neighborhoods, Sheriff Leon Lott unveiled a surprise: 15 new cars for his team officers.
“When a program is successful, it lasts. The CAT teams have done nothing but grow,” Lott told a reporter at Monday’s unveiling of 15 2017 Chevrolet Camaro two-door cars for each team. The low-swung, two-door sedans have a 455-horsepower engine, an eight-speed automatic shift and can hit 200 mph.
“They won’t be going that fast,” Lott said at a press conference at Polo Road Recreation Park.
The community action teams have proved essential in letting neighborhoods have a friendly law enforcement officer who is knowledgeable about local people and affairs, Lott said.
Officers build lasting relationships by attending neighborhood meetings and events, giving crime prevention advice and imparting to residents a sense of security, he said. In return, the department gets tips.
“We want the good guys to know them, and we want the bad guys to know them,” Lott said.
One of the most prominent CAT officers is Chris Mastrianni, whose action last month in rescuing a toddler from a fugitive after a high-speed chase was broadcast nationally on the A&E documentary series “Live PD.”
“I’ve seen Officer Chris chase one man who threw his drugs out ... Officer Chris got him. Our crime has gone down a lot,” said Diane Wiley, president of the Belvedere community association, who praised Lott’s CAT teams.
Arcadia Lakes Mayor Mark Huguley said his town “is too small to have its own police force – we don’t want one. We benefit greatly from what the sheriff provides.”