By David Meade
Following an incident Saturday in which three people were shot, Williamston Police Chief Tony Taylor addressed concerns of the community.
Taylor said that the shooting on Caroline Street was the result of an ongoing conflict between individuals and that it was connected to a shooting incident last week on Joe Black Road.
In that incident, a man was shot on the front porch but declined to cooperate with authorities.
Anderson County Sheriff’s Deputies are investigating that incident and according to Taylor, a warrant was issued for one of the victims in the shooting on Caroline Street.
That victim, Brandon Spandau Rowe, remains in the hospital in ICU.
He along with Stacy Andre Mosley and Patrice Marcella Peters were injured by gunshots during the incident.
Taylor said the female victim, who had three gunshot wounds in the leg, was likely in the wrong place at the wrong time and was probably struck by ricochets.
Williamston police are still looking for the shooter, Bobby Lee Slade and hoping he will turn himself in soon.
Taylor said officers had been dispatched to the area concerning a firearm about an hour before the shooting took place, but saw no evidence to take action.
The area around where the shooting took place Caroline Street has been a priority for the police department for some time according to Taylor.
Taylor said there is a lot of misinformation in the community about what the police can and can’t do.
He said his department “has worked very hard in that area to bring about some stability.”
He said officers have been aggressively working the area since 2013, when they had 28 arrests for a variety of crimes including drug charges, domestic violence and others.
Since then the Chief said he has seen an increase in people from out of town being in the area.
“There are a lot of people coming from out of town,” he said.
Taylor said development in the West End of Greenville has resulted in pushing people out of West Greenville and they are coming to Williamston for affordable housing.
“As a result, they have brought criminal activity,” he said.
In the Caroline Street area, there were 17 arrests in 2014; 43 arrests in 2015; 34 arrests in 2016 and so far this year, there have been 21 arrests, Chief Taylor said.
“We have been working aggressively and have manpower allocated.”
Taylor said there have been numerous search warrants executed in the area and charges related to narcotics and burglary. He said SLED and the Anderson County SWAT team have also been involved.
Taylor said one of the main problems local law enforcement is facing, is that his officers make arrests and good cases, but the criminals “make bail and are right back on the street.”
Taylor said that many cases don’t get to court due to lack of community support, meaning that witnesses or persons that give statements are unwilling to appear in court for either fear or threats.
“Some have a real fear, some have a real threat,” Taylor said. He said some don’t want to get the police involved and decide to handle it themselves.
As a result, Taylor said that witnesses are either not around or decide not to continue with prosecution, which results in a dropped case because of not showing up for court.
The Chief said many of the problems he sees are from repeat offenders that have been arrested before for some type of criminal activity by the Williamston Police Department or surrounding agencies.
“They get out and come right back to the community where either themselves or someone they know stays.”
To address the problems in the area, Taylor said that the police department is working with landlords and worked the Housing Authority “to get success getting people evicted or not to lease to people with a criminal backgrounds.”
Taylor said law enforcement needs help from a combination of working with landlords and the community.
“We are working with landlords and on the culture that has been here for years in that community” Taylor said. “to address the problems residents in the area and law enforcement are experiencing.”
Taylor said he believes it is a combination of fear and the mentality that many have of, “We can handle it ourselves”
He said a lot of it is cultural, “of not being involved.”
“We are working to change that perception in the community,” Chief Taylor said.
Taylor said that four months ago the police department began holding a meeting for the community on the third Thursday of the month. The meetings are held at Town Hall and last about an hour, he said.
Information is presented to help residents deal with crime and related problems.
“We are being proactive.”
Taylor said he hopes to get more cooperation from landlords using background checks on tenants.
Williamston Mayor Mack Durham agreed with Chief Taylor about some of the problems in the town being the result of people not wanting to get involved. “When you have a disengaged community, crime comes in.”
Durham said he is focused on “community ownership, about citizens becoming involved in their community.”
Durham said that the town is not just about events, but about the community.
“We need to re-weave the fabric of our neighborhoods.”
Durham said “These households become neighborhood where there is a lot of fragmentation.”
“The more we get people in the community involved with each other and with the police department, the less power these elements have.”
Chief Taylor said the town is being proactive in another way by sponsoring job fairs for employers willing to hire people with a criminal record.
“We want to empower people to make the right decisions,” Taylor said. “We want them to make the right choices and help by being proactive from the law enforcement side.”
Taylor said a new town ordinance directed at landlords hopefully will help address problem areas.
He said the new ordinance, which has already been approved by town council, will be enforced beginning in January. The ordinance will give the police department and the town leverage with property owners to deal with problem tenants.
Mayor said the new ordinance puts a “means in place to give property owners and the community a way to partner with local government to improve the town and their neighborhoods.”
The mayor said, “We have done a lot of training to put a crime scene or case together then to the solicitors office, then a witness doesn’t show up.
Chief Taylor said, “My door is always open for people who want to be a part of the solution.”