Violent crime in Greenville County dropped 9.5 percent from 2014 to 2015, but problems like gang activity still exist, according to Sheriff Steve Loftis.
At a Democratic Women of Greenville County meeting Monday, Loftis, who announced this week that he’s running for re-election, spoke about various aspects of crime in the county.
He said about 8 years ago close to 70 gangs operated in the county. Since then, some of those gangs have stopped operating, he said, but larger gangs like the Bloods and Crips have recruited in the area.
Loftis said drive-by shootings directly related to gang or drug activity have picked up recently. He said accurate statistics on such incidents is hard to get because many times such incidents aren’t reported.
The sheriff’s office is working with federal agencies to reduce gang activity.
The last major sheriff’s office gang unit operation was in August last year, when they made 67 arrests of known gang and seized 11 firearms, Loftis said.
“Eleven firearms might not sound like too many, but that’s 11 more that we don’t have to worry about,” he said.
In most crimes involving guns, the firearms are purchased legally, Loftis said.
The sheriff’s office also conducted an operation in February targeting gang members in the Bloods, which led to the arrest of five gang members and seizure of two firearms and illegal drugs.
The sheriff’s office is taking steps to keep teenagers out of gangs.
The office has a special gang investigator who works exclusively in Greenville County Schools, and all the middle and high schools have resource officers to help serve as role models for students.
“We haven’t totally stopped gang violence, and I don’t think we ever will,” Loftis said. “But having school resource officers in those location kind of helps close the gap to a certain extent between some the younger students and a uniform police officer.”