JASPER CO., SC (WTOC) - Candidates will face off on Tuesday in some key races in South Carolina's primaries. There's a lot up for grabs in the Lowcountry, including the sheriff's seat for Jasper County.
Being sheriff is obviously a very important position. There are three candidates who want that position, including the incumbent and two other former deputies. They all have big plans to make Jasper County a safer place.
Sheriff Gregory Jenkins has been the sheriff of Jasper County for four years. He said that during his term, the department has accomplished a lot.
"Since 2009, we've made over 40,000 arrests; we've responded to over 55,000 calls; we've served more than 6,000 civil papers," Jenkins said.
He said high visibility in top crime areas has been key. Jenkins said community input is also essential to fighting crime and is making that a top priority with a Citizens Police Academy.
"We've been doing things. One of our greatest accomplishments we want to unveil is this academy because we see a need, there's no need for officers to go to schools and we have the knowledge and the citizens have not had the opportunity. we'll continue to be in the county, we have officers in the schools, officers in the country, and we're doing more outreach," said Jenkins.
Now, two other former sheriff's deputies are vying to take his spot including longtime former deputy Sam Woodward.
"I've trained my whole career, 28 and half years to fill this job," said Woodward. "Since I left the office in 2010, I've seen a lot of things I'm not particularly happy with and I hear the citizens aren't happy with. I believe with my experience, my background, I can make changes need to make Jasper County a safer place to live."
Woodward's big priorities include starting an advisory committee to help get citizen's input to the department and getting the drugs off the streets.
"I'm planning on putting the Drug Task Force back together in Jasper County," said Woodward. "For years now, we've been sharing the responsibility with Beaufort County Drug Task Force. I fell like Jasper County needs men here working every day, seven days a week, 24 hours a day to crack down on the crimes that's caused by drug dealing."
Getting drugs off the street is also a top concern for Charles Mitchell, who was a part of the Department's drug task force.
"Eighty-five percent of the problems in Jasper County are drug-related, and if we can put a strong drug task force on the streets of Jasper County we can put impact the community, keeping drugs from getting into the hands of kids at school. I know we can't stop it but we can do better," said Mitchell.
Mitchell said he wants to take proactive measures, putting in a strategic patrol plan to reduce response times and has plans to generate funds to help move the department forward.
"We have 66 miles of interstate in Jasper County, Ridgeland police utilizes several miles of interstate where they brought in approximately $8 million and we could have been doing that same thing, bringing those drug funds, revenues into the department, seizure vehicles, holding a sheriff auction," he said.
The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday.