Chatham County Sheriff candidates give input on fighting crime - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Chatham County Sheriff candidates give input on fighting crime

The candidates for Chatham County Sheriff at a previous community forum. The candidates for Chatham County Sheriff at a previous community forum.

We are just one week away from Super Tuesday, and when you head to the polls you'll see the names of those running to fill the remaining term of late Chatham County Sheriff Al St Lawrence.

Current Sheriff Roy Harris faces four challengers, and on THE News at 4 p.m. on Monday, we introduced you to each candidate.

One of the biggest issues on the minds of many who live in this community is crime. And while it may impact those who live in certain areas of the county more than others, I found out these candidates have different viewpoints on how to tackle the problem.

“We are an assistance agency. We have an authority to arrest statewide,” said Sheriff Harris.

Sheriff Harris says it is very clear the Sheriff's Office has the power to help any and every agency fight crime. When it comes specifically to the issue of crime in Savannah and outlying areas. He believes the more manpower, the better.

“When you have a rapidly moving violent crime it's best to get as many units in there to block off the suspect,” said Sheriff Harris.

According to the Chatham County Sheriff's mission statement, the duties of the sheriff include operating the jail, enforcing state law, receiving and serving civil processes and subpoenas. But with weekly and sometimes daily shootings in Savannah, each candidate has a different outlook on what the sheriff's role should be in fighting crime.

“It's been said many times the sheriff does not perform basic law enforcement duties and responsibilities…but he's still responsible,” said McArthur Holmes.

And Kim Middleton believes:

‘The sheriff is responsible for the entire county so I would have to work with chief revenue in Pooler, Tybee, etc,” said Middleton.

But John Wilcher has a very different opinion.

“Crime is a big issue but that's not the sheriff's main function. His is to operate the court, the streets and the jail,” said Wilcher. “I believe in helping the other departments but you have to help yourself first. You have to do the job you are tasked to do as the sheriff or one of his deputies.”

Sheriff Harris disagrees.

“We show up, we're there to help,” said Sheriff Harris.

He also gave an example of this type of help.

“Approved money last year for joint sharing gang database with SCMPD, DA’s office, CNT team,” said Sheriff Harris.

Williamson, on the other hand, thinks the jail should have more of an impact on fighting crime.

“We need to have programs in jail so people in jail can have vo-tech training, so when they get out they can have a decent job,” said Williamson. “That way you can keep them from coming back to jail.”

But Middleton believes this problem is beyond the jail.

“As the sheriff, I would have a collaborative effort to bring all law enforcement, social organizations, and religious organizations so we can collaborate so we can work on reducing crime, preventing crime and reducing recidivism for people coming back to jail over and over,” said Middleton.

Holmes supports a joint effort as well.

“Working with Metro, working with other municipalities, shows responsibility and effort and concern in Chatham County,” said Holmes. “It's not going to happen overnight. It's going to take some time. Crime problem didn't happen overnight.”

On Wednesday, I'll continue my series, with a closer look at what each candidate plans to do in their first 90 days on the job if elected.

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