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Election 2012: In sheriff’s race, it’s all about the numbers

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

For Sheriff Lane Cribb and challenger Darryel Carr the race in Georgetown County is a numbers game.

Carr says just getting on the ballot as a petition candidate after being disqualified by failure to file a Statement of Economic Interest properly was a major hurdle. He collected 2,014 signatures from registered county voters in just three weeks to get on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Cribb, a Republican, is looking at the number 9,669. That’s how many voters cast a straight Democratic Party ballot in 2008. Unopposed in the general election, Cribb collected more than 23,000 votes four years ago. And this time, the straight-ticket Democrats will have to seek Carr’s name out and include him on their ballots. Both say Republicans will have to cross over for Carr to win.

“It’s a big hindrance, being a petition candidate,” Carr said. “I still looked at it as a positive. Once we went out and started getting signatures, a lot of people heard my name.”

Carr said he went to yard sales, grocery store parking lots and gas stations to get signatures. Then he and his wife, mother and daughter checked them against the county’s voter registration roles to make sure they would count.

“I liked the interaction,” Carr said. “I got to hear people’s concerns. The sheriff says crime is down, but everywhere I went people were saying, ‘Where’s the sheriff’s department?’ They only see them at election time. There’s a disconnect between the sheriff’s department and the community.”

Despite his opponent’s allegations, Cribb said this has been a quiet campaign compared to some others.

“I feel good about it,” he said, “but you never know. I don’t take anything for granted. It seems like we have pretty good support for what we’re doing.”

He says receiving accreditation from the S.C. Law Enforcement Association last March should assure Georgetown County residents that he is doing a good job. “You can’t get it,” Cribb said, “without being professional.”

He said his office’s technology is “at the top,” and deputies have computer capability in their cars that allows them to file reports from the road rather than having to return to the office or a substation. That saves time and gasoline, a cost that has been hard on the budget this year, Cribb said.

Cribb said his officers have seen more prescription drug abuse and copper theft in the past year. Thieves hooked a truck to the copper pipes in an Andrews plant in an attempt to pull them loose and steal them, he said. “They are even cleaning up the junk cars from the edges of the woods,” he added. “Even with the crime we’ve got, it’s still lower than anywhere around us.”

Still, public safety was one of the concerns listed by people of family-raising age who left Georgetown County in the past decade, according to a study commissioned by local governments. Alone among six coastal counties of comparable size, Georgetown saw the number of people between the ages of 20 and 44 decline in the 2010 Census. Overall, the county’s population grew by almost 8 percent, driven by residents 55 and older.

The study said 24.5 percent of county residents feel “not too safe” or “not safe at all.”

The study, done by the University of South Carolina, revealed a perception about law enforcement but was useless without specifics, Assistant Sheriff Carter Weaver said after it came out in July.

Cribb said his office received 69,708 calls for service last year, one every eight minutes. “They were not all serious,” he said. “Some were a cat on somebody’s porch, but they all called for a response. That’s what we’re here for.”

One of his biggest concerns, Cribb said, is keeping deputies after they are trained. He said it costs $9,000 to train a deputy over nine months, including three months at the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy. Surrounding law enforcement agencies pay up to $6,000 more a year and hire newly trained officers away, forcing Georgetown County to start over with green recruits.

“It’s better to pay them and keep them,” Cribb said.

Cribb said his opponent’s website was copied from a sheriff in Louisiana, promising more responsive law enforcement.

“Everything in there,” Cribb said, “no matter who said it, we’re doing it.”

An example of that is Carr’s proposal to saturate an area reporting a rising crime trend with officers until it’s cleared up. Cribb says he has an Intensive Crime Enforcement team doing that now.

Carr, a 10-year veteran of the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office as a patrol sergeant, traffic supervisor and narcotics investigator, was running MBF Tours and Travel, a Pawleys Island charter bus business, before he took a job as bus routing coordinator for the Georgetown County School District. He said he would have to give up his school job if elected sheriff. His wife has taken over the charter bus business.

To learn more about Tuesday’s election, there is a sample ballot online.

To check your voter registration information, go to the state Election Commission website.

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