Some residents have recently left messages with Aiken Standard’s TalkBack about possible drug crimes in their neighborhoods and insisting action by police, but local authorities said they need those residents to alert them in the first place.
“I wish the police would come through Lincoln Avenue and Glen Arbor. We have a lot of drug dealers and speeding cars. Please, just come on through,” said one caller.
Another caller said there were “drug dens” on Green Street in New Ellenton, and that “something needs to be done about it.”
‘Simple, basic observations’
If you see what you suspect is drug activity in your neighborhood, don’t wait – call law enforcement to investigate, said Lt. Jake Mahoney, a spokesman for the Aiken Department of Public Safety. Try to get a good look at what’s going on and the individuals involved so you can pass that information on to law enforcement.
“It starts with simple, basic observations,” Mahoney said. Those observations include the nature of the criminal activity and descriptions of the people involved, including height, weight, hair and skin color and clothing descriptions.
Also note any vehicles involved, including make and model, color, tag number and direction of travel.
“The more specific a caller can be, the better it will be for law enforcement to increase our chances of making contact with the subjects,” Mahoney said.
He said those tips can lead investigators straight to the individuals involved.
“For those investigations that are a little more in-depth, we can use it to gather further intelligence ... and use all that together to develop a better case against the perpetrators,” he said.
Not as quick as TV
Residents have a few options for reporting crime. Depending on the severity of the crime and the circumstances, they can call 911 or contact their local law enforcement agency directly.
Tipsters can remain anonymous, but authorities said it can be helpful for them to follow up if they provide a name or contact information.
Sgt. Jason Feemster of the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office said it takes time to build a solid case in a drug investigation.
“It doesn’t always work as quick as it does on television,” he said. “When we’re investigating houses and people for selling drugs, it can be a lengthy process. We have to abide by the laws of the Constitution.”
Some investigations may require a confidential informant to purchase drugs from a suspect, Feemster said.
“We try to make good cases, and it takes time to get those things,” he said, adding that some cases can take weeks or months to build. “You can get small fish and you can get big fish. We try to be thorough and we try to make lasting impressions when we’re able to make arrests involved in narcotics activity.”
Anything out of the ordinary
When it comes to spotting suspicious activity, Mahoney said police rely on residents to alert them if they see something that’s “not consistent” with the normal activities of the neighborhood.
“Most people know their neighborhoods better than police officers. They live there, they know what goes on daily,” he said.
Possible indicators of drug activity include large volumes of foot and vehicle traffic to a particular location in a neighborhood, especially during late-night hours, Mahoney said.
Also, people may remain in the area for only a short period of time.
“They’re there, they knock on the door, and moments later they leave,” he said.
Mahoney said not reporting drug activity can be dangerous for the entire neighborhood, and that drugs, weapons and violence tend to go hand-in-hand.
If you don’t speak to law enforcement about it, get involved with a neighborhood association or community crime watch and raise your concerns there.
“Any type of criminal activity that is allowed to go unchecked and unreported tends to encourage the perpetrators to continue what they’re doing,” he said. “We need the citizens to become involved in making our community safer – to take ownership of their neighborhoods.”
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.