Elliott and Mercado: We support putting more deputies on our streets

March 24, 2022

By Clint Elliott and Stella Mercado

Preserving our quality of life here on the Waccamaw Neck is the main issue we hear about. Concerns about residential growth exceeding our infrastructure capacity are real. We have to ensure growth is well controlled and managed.

Beyond land use, public safety is critical to our quality of life. We all want a safe community for our families, one that has the law enforcement resources to keep crime low and respond quickly in the event of an emergency.

Georgetown County Sheriff Carter Weaver has done an excellent job keeping us safe, with well-trained officers and smart law enforcement strategies. He is one of the most qualified law enforcement professionals in South Carolina. He’s a former SLED agent, graduate of the FBI National Academy, and has a law degree.

It’s unfortunate that in some areas of our country, law enforcement officers are viewed disrespectfully. The job has gotten much more difficult, with fewer officers wanting to stay on the job and less people wanting to enter the profession, which makes it even more challenging for our law enforcement professionals.

The critical problem facing the Sheriff is that residential and tourism growth has exceeded the number of deputies needed to patrol our streets and beaches. In fact, the sheriff’s office has not had an increase in enforcement personnel in 15 years. The sheriff’s office calculates that peak tourism season in the county generates an additional 24,000 people, most of which are on the Waccamaw Neck. Added to the permanent county population of 63,000, the sheriff’s office law enforcement responsibilities swells to nearly 90,000 people.

For several years, Sheriff Weaver has been making the case to county council that Georgetown’s law enforcement staffing levels have fallen behind recognized national standards and that more deputies are needed to maintain a high level of service. He has submitted a thoughtful plan to add eight patrol deputies for the 2022-2023 budget year and phase in three additional deputies a year over the next six years.

The sheriff’s office has a jurisdiction that covers over 800 square miles and last year handled nearly 44,000 calls for service. Forty-seven percent of those calls were from the Waccamaw Neck. Since traffic on Hwy 17 through the Waccamaw Neck is now at 30,000 to 47,000 vehicles a day, traffic safety and enforcement has become a greater responsibility for Sheriff Weaver. Last year, over 40 percent of the calls for service were for traffic stops or traffic related.

Law enforcement is one of those core government functions that must be done well. Sheriff Weaver needs the resources for a strong law enforcement presence to keep us safe and maintain our quality of life.

Based on a $210,000 home, the median value in Georgetown County, the eight deputies would cost a little over $16 in additional property tax per year, or about $2 per deputy, for an owner-occupied home.

We support the sheriff’s efforts and pledge to work together, if elected, to get the plan passed.

Elliott and Mercado are candidates for County Council Districts 1 and 6 respectively.

Click here for the op-ed.