Uptick in shootings in City of Aiken; leaders say something has got to be done

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AIKEN, S.C. (WJBF) – Crime is continuing to happen across Aiken County including in the city limits. This time, an Aiken man was gunned down on his street.

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Residents and authorities are fed up with crime that has happened over the last few months across the City of Aiken.

“We say fed up, but very sad it’s very disheartening,” Aiken Public Safety Department Cynthia Williams told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk about crime in the area.

In some neighborhoods, shootings and car break-ins have started to be the norm. A message sent to Shawn tells the story of what life is like in Crosland Park.

“I am a resident of Crosland Park. For over 2 yrs, we have been under siege. It started out being burglaries and smashed car windows and mailboxes, but for a good year and a half, it has been actual gun shootings. I have called 911 a zillion times, not much of an exaggeration. Someone should pull some of these tapes. Often, it starts with the dispatchers not being concerned unless you are the victim being shot. They act complacent, ask off-topic questions, or want you to know all the details late at night when you have half witnessed by looking through a window or hearing the shots. I am sick and freaking tired of this. I have written to the mayor multiple times. I have written to the police multiple times. We have many good people here who own their homes, but most of us do not have the money to move. In fact, my house is worth THE SAME as back in 1993 when I first moved it. We pay city and county taxes, get no extra help. We have many dark streets. We have some streets with sidewalks. We desperately need a ton of huge trees weeded out that have grown out of proportion since this neighborhood was established in 1952, and many areas are very dark. Our neighborhood association leader threatened me one yr because I told the truth about what was going on with Croland Park on FB. He said I was making property values go down. I am not the one running around in a car, shooting people. I am not the house on my street with a blue light on beckoning people to get their guns and drugs. I have begged for them to bust all these run-down Section 8 houses. They ran one out finally two doors from us. They act like they are scared to do their job. NO ONE here wants to go on camera or be seen squealing. It is way, way too dangerous. Please stay on this story until they catch every one of these drug dealers here. I promise you there is a story that Aiken is covering over. Ask to hear 911 calls from residents. See how many times they follow through accurately. One time, I nearly single handly caught a man under my carport, saw him on the security camera as a blur. Ran down the street, followed him. He went on a porch of an abandoned house. I just pretended like I was walking, kept going. When I passed the house, he jumped in his bright blue vehicle and flew out of there. I got the tag number. I told 2 young police that I wanted to file a report. My “report” was a business card with probably a random number they generated on it. Ride around in Crosland. See how many want to talk off record of how frustrated and scared they are. How many of us have developed health problems? That there is no use to repair aging homes for new gun-holes to be placed. PLEASE! Crosland Park, Aiken SC. Crosland is treated like the red-haired step child (hope that is not politically incorrect, but you get the drift.)”

Concerned Crosland Park neighborhood resident

The department has responded to more than 160 calls, for at least shots fired, this year alone. “We do see in some various locations of course, where we have more, I guess, condensed neighborhoods, you’re going to see some increased numbers there,” Williams added.

Now, a shooting Wednesday evening in the Toole Hill neighborhood involving gun violence. This time, taking the life of a young 22-year-old man. “The shooting has got to stop some way and we that are ministers, we got to get out and do something about it,” local pastor George Burckhalter added.

Jamar Bush was shot once, taken to the hospital, and died later.

“There are so many varying factors. Certainly, as you mentioned, potentially there is some gang activity,” Williams added.

The crimes continue, despite members of the community reaching out to the young people most likely to be involved in illegal activity.

“I would have conversations with different ones around in the area there that was their visiting friends. So I was concerned and I let them know, you know, what, that we are here for them,” Burckhalter added.

Now public safety officials are working to turn around the violence in these neighborhoods.

The shooting happened just after 6 p.m. at a home on Dillon Avenue. Details in the crime are limited.

“We try to work with so many various programs, different partners, different resources because we do understand that to begin to address a situation, that we’re seeing now and with the increased numbers, we’re going to have to come at it from various aspects, different angles,” Williams shared.

But it starts with more of the community stepping up to the plate to let public safety know what they know.”One thing we always say, if you see something, please say something. And I think that is a challenge across the board. Overall here with Aiken Department of Public Safety, we have good working relationships with our community,” Williams added.

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