Richland Sheriff Leon Lott makes a point during a meeting of Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin’s panel on violent crime and bond reform. TIM DOMINICK — email@example.com
Below is an Editorial I submitted to The State earlier this week. Simply put, if we remove politics from the equation, the answer is simple.
The Answer to Columbia’s Violent Crime
Recently, the Midlands area has seen a dramatic rise in gang violence and senseless shootings. Local business leaders, elected officials, USC’s administration and many others have all sought answers to the big question…what can we do to stop it? College students, victims groups and local law enforcement officials have all met and wondered out loud what can we all do to combat violent crime.
Personally, I believe there may not be just one answer, but I know one man who has the experience and sheer determination to get the job done once and for all here in Columbia, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.
In the past, Columbia City Council has apparently been reluctant to cede power to Sheriff Lott because of small turf battles and because those same elected officials might lose some control over the law enforcement they currently manage in the City.
But the days for political gamesmanship are over. That night the stray bullet struck a college freshman in the back and then confining her to a wheel chair, the games ended. The days of cheap turf wars standing in the way of solutions are gone.
For many of us, the answer is clear. The answer is to have Sheriff Lott take over control of all the county and city law enforcement efforts and allocate resources where he knows they will best be utilized. To do anything less is simply sanctioning further violence throughout all of Columbia.
Leon Lott is a unique individual who transcends politics and has a record of achievement. Seventeen years ago, Leon became county sheriff and turned the direction of his office into community based policing. The success that the Department has had in the community since that time is remarkable. Just this summer, his office was recognized as one of the 15 best in the entire nation by the United States Department of Defense.
He is also someone who can detect problems early in an area and diagnose a real solution. For example, many years ago, he was the first to recognize the gang problem in Columbia and actually did something about it – creating a gang unit.
His gang unit is manned by several full time Richland County Sheriff’s department investigators. It is their job to collect any and all information on gangs and then track the gang’s activity. The investigators conduct gang awareness classes and assist with all gang related crimes. Ultimately, this gang unit’s mission is to eradicate gang activity. In 2013, it was recognized by the SC Gang Investigations Association as the Gang Unit of the year.
Leon Lott understands how to get things done. Most readers would agree that this is not often said about many parts of government, but it is certainly true about Sheriff Lott and his team. We have a number of problems in local and state government, but I hope we don’t overlook the simplest answer, standing right in front of our faces.
Leon Lott is the answer to the violent crime wave in Columbia, and that is why I urge the Columbia City Council and Mayor to move quickly… end any turf wars and quickly place him in charge of all city AND county law enforcement.
Nathan Ballentine is a South Carolina State Representative from Chapin, SC.
To read the editorial as it appeared on The State on Thursday, click here .