The Berkeley County Sheriff's Office has seen an increase in population and calls, making its response time suffer so it is spliting the county in half.
The sheriff's office has started a new way of zoning to more evenly disperse deputies throughout a county that is roughly the size of the state Rhode Island. Size comparisons aside; a fresh approach was overdue.
The effort to split the county into just two sections is new for Berkeley County. Deputies started the new system on March 22. The Sheriff said detailed information on how response times have changed is not yet available but agency leaders are sure more deputies will be in more places.
The new approach splits the entire county, all of its, 1,231 square miles, into two districts. County council worked with the sheriff’s office on the plan while also approving eight new deputies each year for the next three years.
“It’s an idea that I had, after about a year or so after coming into office,” said Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis. “I realized that we probably needed to update and upgrade our zones and sub-zones so this has been like a three or four-year plan we’ve been working on.”
Before the change, Berkeley County deputies were split into six zones around the county, taking it all on as a single area.
“Doing all that restructuring and reorganizing, we were able to split the county in half; create a north district and a south district,” Lewis said.
The new system splits deputies into the two sections and then sub sectors, with deputies stationed and working out of any one of the five substations at: Cainhoy/Huger, Cross, Alvin, Cane Bay and a new sub-station is set to open on Red Bank Road in Goose Creek. The sub-stations are staffed by community volunteers.
The district plan includes new scheduling and will double the number of Berkeley County deputies working at any time. Counties have split into two zones before but Berkeley County’s is unique. There will be two captains, one will manage the north district and the other will manage the south.
“They are also responsible for the crime in their district and I hold them accountable for the crime in their district,” said Lewis. “So they have to come up with strategies and ways to deal with any crime that is occurring in their district.”
The sheriff said the plan strategically places deputies around the lake, where call volumes have increased. Also the Sheriff’s Office has worked together with the community to help deputies better patrol all pockets of the county.
“It’s more accountability, it actually reduces the time it takes to get to the call, so people have their calls answered faster,” he said.