By HEATHER WALTERS
Colleton County detectives have retrieved more than $1 million in property stolen from county residents during 2020.
This group of detectives works for the Criminal Investigations Division (CID), a branch of the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office. The division consists of nine detectives who primarily focus on investigating major crimes. Through those investigations, detectives build cases that often result in arrests. The detectives stay with the cases throughout the court process and assist in prosecution efforts. The division handles many cases, including tracking down fugitives, locating missing persons, theft rings, financial crimes, sexual assaults, gang-related incidents and homicides. Despite the heavy caseload, the CCSO CID is known for its accomplishments in recovering stolen property.
“The property we have recovered and returned is everything from a pair of shoes to larger stolen goods such as lawnmowers, tractors, cars and construction equipment,” said Capt. Jason Chapman, the detective in charge of the CID, who oversees the eight other detectives who work within CID. The division also has a full-time evidence custodian, rounding the division out to nine personnel.
In 2020, the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office calculated the amount of stolen property recovered from across the county at about $1 million on the day before Thanksgiving. These cases include everything from theft from a motor vehicle, heavy construction equipment, residential burglaries and commercial burglaries. As of Dec. 28, 2020, that amount skyrocketed to an estimated $1.3 million, according to records.
The Criminal Investigation Division primarily investigates cases in Colleton County. However, the division often works with other law enforcement agencies, including the Walterboro Police Department and neighboring sheriff’s offices, such as the Dorchester, Beaufort, Hampton and Charleston County sheriff’s offices. Criminal offenders will often victimize persons or businesses in other areas and bring the stolen items back to Colleton, where they are stored or sold, due to the county’s rural layout and easy accessibility from I-95.
The large amount of recovered stolen property also only reflects the work done by the CID. Additional property recovery cases are often made and worked by other divisions within the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office, making the value of found property exceedingly higher, Chapman said.
“Our detectives work hard to recover victims’ property that’s stolen without care or regard,” he said. In many of their cases, detectives recover property that the victim has not even reported. Sometimes several days go by before they realize the property is missing, and then they make a report.
According to CCSO records, the number of burglaries and property-theft cases in Colleton County increased in 2020, compared to 2019. This increase is attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions it has placed on the legal system. For example, while arrests have occurred in most of the county’s property-theft cases, there is a constant repeat offender cycle — this happens when the suspects are out on bond awaiting trial and commit additional crimes. The national pandemic has pushed state officials to issue specific mandates, like urging all county-based detention centers to work to stay free of Covid-19 cases by lowering the jails’ general population count.
“The number of property-theft cases and burglaries has gone up,” said Chapman. “Covid restrictions have certainly not helped. We are urged not to hold defendants arrested on ‘lesser serious offenses.’ This order is meant to try to keep the number of Covid-19 cases down in detention centers across the state,” he said. “Additionally, courtroom restrictions have severely impacted the trial process. The side effect of all this is a continuous cycle of repeat offenders. The good news,” Chapman said, “is we don’t have Covid in our jail, and the CID staff has made a massive accomplishment in regard to the recovery of stolen property.”
To date, the Colleton County Detention Center reported no Covid-19 inmate cases. Captain Shane Roberts oversees the jail. Earlier last year, a tiered-safety-check program was put into effect, including quarantine procedures for incoming inmates, those who can’t make bail or who have serious offenses.
“He has done a miraculous job in keeping our jail safe,” Chapman said of Roberts.