In light of a 12.7 percent increase in vehicle break-ins last year, Sumter Police Chief Russell Roark III stood before the Sumter City Council on Tuesday to urge residents to lock their vehicles.
The plea came during the Sumter Police …
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- Approved second and final reading of an ordinance to rezone .24 acres at 1947 McCrays Mill Road from general residential to general commercial. The property is currently owned by the Sumter County Forfeited Land Commission, which intends to make the land more desirable for purchase by changing the zoning classification
- Passed final reading of an ordinance to rezone .28 acres at 301 South Main St. from light industrial-wholesale to central business district to permit more use options for the office spaces inside a building on the lot.
The plea came during the Sumter Police Department's annual crime report to the council, which Roark III presented.
The police department recorded five murders in the city - two more than the previous year - 72 weapons crimes and 461 vehicle break-ins. The 2.63 percent increase in crime between 2016 and 2017 is mostly contributed to the spike in vehicle break-ins, Roark said.
About 90 percent of the reported auto break-ins involve vehicles that are unlocked, he said.
Though it is difficult to predict crimes against a person, crimes of opportunity, such as vehicle break-ins, can be decreased if people change a few of their daily habits, Roark said.
The department has been pushing information for its "Lock It Before You Leave It" initiative, which urges people to remove valuables and lock their vehicles before walking away.
Commenting on the increase of murders in the city, Councilman Calvin Hastie said many people in the community are ready for things to change.
There were also many comments from young people on social media who said they are also tired of the crime, he said.
Hastie thanked the police department for its work in keeping people who may be involved in illegal activity off the streets.
Later, Roark told council members about the department's efforts to connect with the community it serves during community events and projects offered by the law enforcement agency.
Roark talked about the various community projects that the department implements throughout the year, which include Random Acts of Kindness (RAK), Youth Corps, Pursuit Against Hunger Food Drive, Operation Hydration and Project CheckMate.
Random Acts of Kindness was started after investigators looked through shoplifting reports and realized that many of the stolen items were food and personal hygiene products, he said. The department began preparing RAK kits for men and women to make sure people had what they needed, he said.
Youth Corps teaches local 14- and 15-year-old students soft skills while getting them involved in taking care of their communities by cleaning local parks and assisting the elderly, he said.
Students also get to interact with officers in positive situations, he said.
These projects allow officers to develop relationships with people in all areas of the community, Roark said.
Including information about community projects in the report lets the citizens of Sumter know that officers are doing many things in the community that do not involve putting people in jail, Mayor Joe McElveen said.
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