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Drug traffic brings calls for patrols

Neighbors trade accusations at Pawleys forum

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Residents in a neighborhood off Waverly Road traded accusations this week at a forum set up by the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office to address complaints about drug activity in the Pawleys Island area.

“I didn’t expect that,” Sheriff Lane Cribb said.

He was prepared for criticism of his office, and he got it from residents who said deputies aren’t visible enough and don’t do enough to target drug dealers.

However, residents of St. Christopher Estates offered conflicting views of the problem.

Betsy Powers said the neighborhood “is like an open-air market” for drug trafficking.

Marlene Foust said she sees cars flashing their headlights to signal drug deals. “You can see them get out of their cars and make transactions,” she said.

But Sherri Ashe said her sons and their friends are responsible for much of the traffic through the neighborhood, and said allegations of drug dealing directed at the cul de sac where she lives are false.

“My boys don’t do drugs,” she said. “My son’s friends are bringing him an Xbox game.”

“There are no drugs being sold off my porch,” said a woman who lives next door to the Ashes.

Ashe’s heated denial and a warning that the accusations could lead to a lawsuit prompted Assistant Sheriff Carter Weaver to lead a review of crime statistics for the area in order for tempers to cool.

Another resident, Robert Julian, said his job with a heating and cooling business requires him to be out at odd hours. “I see a lot of stuff going on. It looks quiet to me.”

He said he’d be willing to help set up a Crime Watch program.

The forum follows a meeting between St. Christopher Estates residents and County Council Member Glen O’Connell over the summer.

“They don’t feel that they have gotten the attention that they should,” O’Connell said. “Certainly the sheriff went out of his way to satisfy that concern.”

Debbie Owens, whose daughter and grandchildren live in St. Christopher Estates, said drug activity in the neighborhood has decreased since August. Some people whom she said were drug dealers have moved out.

Others have shifted their operations.

“It’s all slowed down some since this started,” Owens said.

She believes the key factor is visibility of deputies.

That’s a view shared by other Pawleys Island area residents.

“I don’t think the sheriff’s department has enough presence in the area,” said Louise Engelhardt, who lives on the north end of Parkersville Road.

She said cars creep through the neighborhood at all hours, and compared some houses to “a drive-in.”

“I never see a patrol car,” Engelhardt said.

Alice Young, who also lives in Parkersville, said she has complained for years about litter dumped on the road in front of her house. Nothing was done.

She still sees drug dealers in the area on her way to Bible study, she said.

“This community needs to be able to see you,” she told Cribb.

“It would help if they had a smile on their face,” said Norman Reid, a Parkerville resident.

Cribb said deputies do patrol the area, and said they also carry out undercover drug buys.

“I won’t say it keeps them from doing drugs, but keeps them out of that neighborhood,” he said.

But Young questioned whether the effort is aimed at the right target. “You’re not arresting the people who are bringing drugs into the neighborhood,” she said.

The people who get arrested are buyers who live in the neighborhood. “The people that are using it, get them some help,” Young said.

Cribb said his office has a list of 50 suspected dealers who are the subject of about 100 warrants.

“We don’t hear about it,” Young said.

“Well, you will,” Cribb replied.

Sheriff’s office records show there were 11 drug arrests in or around St. Christopher Estates in the last five years. Records of calls to 911 show there were only two made about drug activity during that time.

Powers said she and neighbors who share her concerns have called frequently. “I know we’re a pain in the neck,” she said.

Weaver urged residents to continue to call when they see problems.

“We’re going to have to make sure we’re communicating with people who have complaints a little better,” he said afterward.

The sheriff’s office is also developing a pay plan to present to County Council that will help retain deputies. Turnover in the ranks makes it difficult to create relationships with the community, Weaver said.

This week’s meeting was a good beginning, but talks need to continue, O’Connell said.

“These are good people; they seem to want to solve the problem,” he said.

Owens said she will continue to press the issue of drug enforcement. “It picks back up after everybody feels comfortable,” she said. “We know it’s not going to go away.”

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