JCSO: Community involvement can prevent recent spike in gun violence

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HARDEEVILLE, S.C. (WSAV) – Jasper County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies are looking to the community Wednesday to help prevent a recent uptick in violent crime.

Deputies held a meeting at St. Stephen AME Church in Hardeeville to bring together and start a conversation with members of the community.

Last week, JCSO responded to an area near St. Stephen AME for a shooting. Deputies later discovered it was connected to two others. All three happened within hours.

The first shooting happened near a home on Jenkins Avenue. Deputies say a suspect sprayed bullets while driving down the street.

JCSO says two suspects are recovering from wounds right now in the hospital.

St. Stephen AME Reverend Vanessa Johnson says a member of her congregation was home when one of the bullets hit the side of her home.

“It’s not acceptable to have our seniors and innocent caught in the crossfire,” she said. “We know the issue is bigger than we are and larger than we can address on our own.”

That’s why she says community members are looking to JSCO for ways to solve the violence problem.

Martha Davis — who has lived on Jenkin’s Avenue for nearly five decades — says this violence is something new. Her late husband — Jerome Davis — was the neighborhood’s biggest advocate.

Mr. Davis is remembered by a plaque on their front yard that reads:

In honor of Jerome Davis, whose dedication and committment to his neigbhors and community were vital in establishing this side walk for the residents of Jenkins Avenue.

Ms. Davis says Mr. Davis would be surprised and disappointed at the recent violence.

“It’s coming here,” she said. “You have shootings all over the nation and innocent people are being killed. If we can get a handle on it, I think [Jenkins Avenue] is still a nice place to live.”

Many people — including Davis — want more police surveillance and, possibly, cameras. But JCSO deputies say that costs money. They are already stretched thin.

According to Sheriff Chris Malphrus, deputies work long shifts and respond to more than 80 calls per day. They need the community to step in by reporting crimes and unusual activity. Sheriff Malphrus says that effort starts with churches, like St. Stephen AME.

“It takes people with leadership positions in Jasper County to trust us and get behind us and support us and say — we gotta join together,” said Sheriff Malphrus.

The sheriff says he wants to host community meetings every month. He says he is already hosting education programs about how to prevent sex trafficking, internet scams and more.

“We want to meet with people. We want to build intimate relationships with them. That’s why we’re doing it,” said Sheriff Malphrus.

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