Lincolnville police force back on the chopping block

Lincolnville police force back on the chopping block

LINCOLNVILLE, SC (WCSC) - For the second time in as many years, the Town of Lincolnville is considering getting rid of their one-officer police force. Members of the town council met Monday night to vote on the silencing the local sirens for good.

"We're at the point now where the criminals have more guns in their car than one police officer has in his," said Lincolnville Mayor Tyrone Aiken. "The citizens of Lincolnville need 24-hour protection."

Aiken, who voted in favor of dissolving the force, says he's biting the bullet and trying to banish the badge out of his town for it's own good.

"The last five years we've had three violent killings," said Aiken. "The level of crimes, the nature of the crimes is bigger than what we can afford now. I don't think the town can afford the number of officers it takes therefore I'd like to give the services to a bigger department to provide the protection."

That bigger department would be the Charleston County Sheriff's Office.

But the vote on an ordinance to dissolve Lincolnville's force didn't pass. The vote was knotted in a three to three tie after councilman Leland Shannon Sr. unexpectedly walked out.

Shannon experienced Lincolnville's violent side personally after his son was killed execution style at the beginning of the year.

The Mayor said handing over patrols to Charleston County deputies will be in town's best interest, but others disagree.

"I want the police department to stay," said Harry Richter. "You got to have it."

Richter, who's lived in Lincolnville for 16 years, said the tie vote that struck down the ordinance is a blessing. He says if there's a serious emergency he wants to have police protection right around the corner.

"Charleston County is pushed to the limit right now," said Richter.

Mayor Aiken told an audience of seven members of the community to adequately cover the needs of the town six officers would have to be hired. Since funds continue to be an issue for the town of less than 1,500 people, Aiken says only one officer is affordable.

"Abolishing the police department doesn't take protection away from the town," said Aiken. "We'll have a bigger department to protect our citizens."

Police Chief Gary Hamner has two volunteer patrol officers, who work irregular hours, and four patrol cars currently at his disposal.

The two new cars were bought with a $67,000 grant the town received to beef up it's force. Councilman Enoch Dickerson questioned the Mayor on what would happen to the patrol cars if the force was disbanded and did not receive a response.

The ordinance stated "due to the nature of recent crime and current resources it is unfeasible to maintain a police department." The ordinance continued by saying if the department was dissolved but Council found the means to fund it, a vote could be taken to re-establish the force in the future.

In 2012, the town of Lincolnville allotted $66,534 to the police department. This year's budget only has $8,555 for the town's blue lights.

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