Aiken, Edgefield county towns ranked in state’s safest cities

  • Posted: Sunday, June 1, 2014 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Sunday, June 1, 2014 12:12 a.m.

Edgefield was recently ranked the No. 2 safest city in South Carolina in a report listing the 40 safest cities in the state, which included several other towns in Aiken and Edgefield counties.

The SafeWise report, 40 Safest Cities in South Carolina, lists what the group said are the top safest cities in the state while also detailing some of the historical and scenic highlights of each city.

SafeWise is a community-focused security organization that has been around for just more than a year, according to spokeswoman Rachel Drake.

To compile the rankings, SafeWise used the most recent FBI crime data to analyze and rank the cities with populations of 2,000 or more.

Drake said the organization hasn’t written a report for every state in the country yet, but is in the process of doing so. The entire report can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/osv5ffs.

Edgefield

The city of Edgefield was ranked No. 2 in the state, second only to Tega Cay in York County. Edgefield has a violent crime rate of 3.57 per 1,000 people and a property crime rate of 15.96 per 1,000.

The report complimented Edgefield for its diverse assortment of events, its “booming artisan community” and pottery hub and educational resources.

“When you’re looking to enjoy a date night, Edgefield offers a collection of interesting eateries, including the Old Edgefield Grill, and you don’t want to miss a nightcap at the artisan distillery Carolina Moon,” the report stated.

Edgefield was at one point notorious for its violence in the 18th and 19th centuries. Chief Ronnie Carter of the Edgefield Police Department said it’s definitely a good change of pace and was pleased with the No. 2 ranking.

He added that people in the close-knit community feel comfortable talking with police.

“We have almost no unsolved crimes, just a few things here and there,” he said. “Everybody knows everybody. If something happens, they’ll tell us who did it.”

Burnettown

It may be easy to miss while traveling down U.S. 1, but Burnettown was ranked the No. 10 safest city in the state.

Noted for its proximity to Augusta and as a hot spot for water recreation thanks to Langley Pond, the report applauded Burnettown residents and government for keeping the town in “tiptop” shape.

“A convenient Fix-O-Gram Form allows residents to report burnt out street lights, graffiti, pot holes and more,” the report stated, also giving props to the annual Sassafras Festival.

The town has a violent crime rate of 2.21 per 1,000 people and a property crime rate of 22.48 per 1,000, according to the report.

Chief David Paul Smith said it’s a great honor for Burnettown to be named in the top 10, but added that the numbers may be “skewed” because the town doesn’t have a 24-hour police department. At night and on weekends, its calls are handled by the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office.

“When you only have a police department that’s running days and evenings, nobody at night and nobody on weekends, the County picks that up and it skews our numbers very bad,” he said. “If I have five homicides and the County works them all, I have no homicides.”

Johnston

Coming in at No. 14 is Edgefield County’s town of Johnston.

The report highlights Johnston as being the Peach Capital of the World and the town’s annual Peach Blossom Festival. It also noted the town’s proximity to Strom Thurmond Lake, Lake Murray and Lake Greenwood.

“Variety is a mainstay in Johnston,” the report stated. “Antique stores, diners, boutiques and friendly folks are just a sampling of what Johnston has to offer.”

The town recorded a violent crime rate of 5.95 per 1,000 people and a property crime rate of 20.82 per 1,000.

“Considering as small as our agency is, we’re really glad to see that,” said Chief Chris Aston of the Johnston Police Department. He attributed the low amount of crime to good relations between residents and law enforcement.

“I guarantee you the citizens help us solve about 75 percent of what’s going on around here,” he said. “That’s the biggest thing. If it wasn’t for the citizens, it’d make our jobs much harder.”

Aston said crime in the town increased as the economy spiraled downward, but noted that no town is immune to crime.

“We have a close-knit town where everybody knows everybody, or everybody knows somebody,” he said.

New Ellenton

The report put New Ellenton in its No. 22 slot and said the town offers “a relaxed lifestyle without the sacrifice of modern comforts.”

It noted how New Ellenton was founded after the U.S. government purchased 200,000 acres of land in the 1950s to build the Savannah River Site, forcing the homes, churches and stores in the town of Ellenton and other small communities to be moved.

“A low population density and slightly lower cost of living than the U.S. average, New Ellenton is a quaint community that’s built on heritage and character,” the report stated.

The report lists a violent crime rate of 7.22 per 1,000 and a property crime rate of 28.38 per 1,000 for New Ellenton.

Chief Alesia Parks of the New Ellenton Police Department said she wasn’t surprised to see the town ranked on the list. She said New Ellenton has its share of crime, but so does every other town.

“Everybody says because they hear shots fired or we’re having burglaries, that New Ellenton is a bad place to live,” she said. “It’s not a bad place to live.”

North Augusta

The fifth local community ranked on the list is North Augusta, which came in at No. 37.

The report praised North Augusta’s virtual tourbook, as well as its New Business Guide and Economic Profile. It paid particular attention to the Riverview Park Activities Center and Greeneway Trail.

“If you’re searching for a city that’s both safe and fitness-focused, look no further,” the report stated.

Lt. Tim Thornton of the North Augusta Department of Public Safety said it’s an honor for the city to be ranked as one of the state’s safest. He attributed the community’s safety to good relationships between residents and law enforcement, good goal setting by government entities and residents “taking ownership” of the city’s security by reporting suspicious activity.

“A craftsman is only as good as the tools they use,” he said. “Much of North Augusta’s peace of mind comes from knowing it has a good governing body that understands the importance of personal security and continues to provide state-of-the-art technology through equipment, software and training to its Public Safety personnel.”

Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.

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