ALLENDALE COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — Allendale County residents are speaking up over several recent issues — including shootings. “I been to Iraq and all that. Been to Afghanistan, get rockets thrown, shot at you . You come here, I’m more scared here than over there,” Steve Walker told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk.

Steve Walker is an Army Vet from Allendale. “The kids are younger and younger with guns. It’s like they holding the community hostage” he added. “I’m scared to walk home at night because you don’t never know what’s going on,” Huron Owens added.

People living there had a chance Friday to come together to talk about the problems affecting their small town. “The biggest issue in Allendale is crime. We are dealing with a shortage of police and right now we are looking at possibly consolidating the sheriff and police departments, which is something that everybody seems in favor of cause of the crime that we have,” Nate Hartley shared.

“I think that a lot of people are not reporting some things and since they’re not reporting it, then law enforcement can’t really do what they do. So they need help from the community to be able to get some of this stuff done,” Fairfax Town Councilwoman Phyllis Smart added.

Some say local leaders need to be more transparent. “Everybody want to be a mayor. Everybody want to be a Councilman, but they ain’t doing their job. And that’s where the problem is here,” Rev. Dr. Audrey Lofton said. “We say the police need to be doing this and doing that, you know, the police force, you can see it is not that big, you know, there’s only much, there’s only so much they can do, they can only react to a crime being in progress or what someone calls. Can they do better maybe in training? Yeah. You know, that comes with training also money,” Walker said.

“There’s a lot of changes probably coming down the pipe. There’s a major study going on focused on local law enforcement. That’s going to really lead where we go from,” Allendale County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Charles Roswell said. “A lot of people have a lot of good ideas, but it comes with an expense. Right now, the Sheriff’s Office is not funded to do all the things we’d like to have done,” he added.

For others, it’s bringing jobs to the rural region.  Leaders say positions are available but many people are not applying. “SC Works that came out and had 35 employers that came to bring jobs to Allendale County. And you had 10 people that showed up only 10. They came and they were ready and each job were at least $19 or above,” Smart shared.

While election signs line the main highway going through Allendale, some say the ballot box is where things can start to move forward in Allendale. “We need to start looking at character. Instead of looking at who the person is and what rank look at the character of the person,” Rev. Dr. Audrey Lofton said.

“We have to vote for people that are able to think outside of the box that are visionaries that want to make a difference in the, not only the town, but in the county,” Nate Hartley added.

“That’s the only way you can kind of get maybe some, some kind of what you believe or your agenda, you know, in is at least voting. Hopefully it’s a fair process,” Walker said.

The Allendale Police Department sent Shawn the following statement:

When you speak to the citizens of Allendale, one of the first things that will often come up is the amount of gun violence in the town.  Citizens often complain about not being able to do things like sit on their porches in the evening or work in their yards without hearing gunshots being fired in the area. They also worry about  falling victim to a stray bullet themselves.  There is also a concern from the citizens that there is no accountability to be had for the persons responsible for the gun violence. As a member of the Police Department, I would like to let the citizens know that we hear their crys for change and we are committed to doing what ever it takes to see a reduction in the amount of gun violence in the town. We have created partnerships and are actively working together with law enforcement agencies on the  local, state and federal levels to bring about a reduction to the amount of gun violence in Town of Allendale.

Allendale Police Department

Other community forums are expected to be held. Also, a candidate forum will take place soon.