System to split county to fight crime

The York County Sheriff's Office is taking a more proactive approach to patrolling and controlling crime in the fast-growing county.

A new program launching this May called PROSTAR splits the county into four districts, similar to the school district boundaries, to increase police accountability for crimes in those areas.

York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant said this program will allow his office to combat the crime that comes with the county's growth.

With 17,000 more calls for police service last year than in 2006, Bryant said they have to look at what they do and how to continue to answer that many calls.

"It's hard to keep officers out in the community when they're driving from one end of the county to York," Bryant said. "One of the many concepts of PROSTAR is putting enforcement where the problem exists."

Now that the countywide emergency radio system is in place and the sheriff's cars have laptops to fill out reports electronically, Bryant said they are in the position to be proactive in policing the county.

"It'll create more accountability from sheriff to line officer, all the way down and back up," Bryant said. "We're going to reorganize our department, assigning officers areas they'll be required to patrol and primarily respond to calls in that area."

The sheriff's office has spent several years studying CompStat, which Rock Hill police have been using since early 2007 to reduce crime with statistical analysis.

"We have made significant reduction in certain crimes, such as breaking and entering in autos and armed robberies," using CompStat, said Lt. Jerry Waldrop of the Rock Hill Police Department. "We've been really impressed with it."

Maj. Robbie Hudgins of the York County Sheriff's Office said each sheriff's unit in the agency will be working together the solve problems.

"We're always going to have to respond to something," he said. "The idea is to become more proactive in the community."

The four lieutenants will become district commanders, in charge of York, Clover, Rock Hill and Fort Mill.

Instead of having a lieutenant for each shift, Bryant said, each of them will be in charge of one of the areas all four shifts. That way they focus on the crime in one area of the county, not all 685 square miles.

All four lieutenants will meet with other local and state law enforcement agencies in the area each week to discuss the crime data, problem areas, recent crimes and major events taking place.

"It's all about working together and sharing Information from headquarters through crime analysis to the field," Hudgins said. "It's all about getting to the root cause of problems and solving them in those communities."

With reports filed electronically from patrol cars, the sheriff's office can easily track crime statistics and analyze trends in the county.

"We can look at spikes in burglaries, car break-ins or home invasions," Bryant said. "The lieutenants will be questioned on how to address these problems."

The district commanders will be stationed throughout the county and will be in those communities for those communities needs, Hudgins said.

They'll start off with offices they have now: at the county's complex on Cherry Road in Rock Hill, York Electric Co-op in Fort Mill, Sharon's city hall and Clover's police department.

"Communities have different needs and problems," Hudgins said. "Problems in Fort Mill are different than in the rural communities. These district commanders can focus on that district and its needs."

The Moss Justice Center on S.C. 5 will remain headquarters, with the jail, forensics, drug enforcement, dispatch and records staying in York.

"The big difference will be the district commander working out of his district office," Bryant said.

They have hurdles to overcome while changing to this program, including space issues, Bryant said. The sheriff's office is looking at using the old Army Reserve Center in Rock Hill and renting additional space in Clover.

York County Manager Jim Baker said there are a number of uses for the Army Reserve Center, which has been vacant for more than a year.

"The sheriff has specific needs, and the center could be a good match for the needs," Baker said. "We have other people who have ideas, thoughts and needs for that building. We need to make the best overall call."

The county has talked about developing more storage space on the property and have the sheriff's office handling security, Baker said.

With the exception of some extra space, Bryant said PROSTAR shouldn't cost taxpayers more. But he said it should save gas money and time.

Bryant said the county's bond package that failed in 2006 would have provided another office location and saved them from driving from Rock Hill and Fort Mill to York to book a prisoner. He's hopeful that someday the county will help solve that problem.

Bryant said he is excited to start PROSTAR and fine-tune it as they get going.

"It's a whole new way of doing business," he said. "We feel that this is going to be a tremendous asset to our organization in that we'll have better accountability in the county."