CHESTER COUNTY, S.C. (WBTV) - Two days after a series of meetings on community safety in Chester County wrapped up, law enforcement responded to four reported shootings within a five-hour-period on Friday, June 7.
Chester County Sheriff Max Dorsey says they have not made any arrests in the cases and have received few tips or witness cooperation.
It’s an issue that was discussed in detail at the first of four community safety meetings held by the Chester Police Department from May 31 through June 5.
Police Chief Eric Williams called for the community to meet him after two shootings happened within five-days of each other in May. Williams asked for the community to help law enforcement solve these crimes by reporting anything they see or know. Several community members expressed concerns that their tips weren’t remaining anonymous or their tips weren’t being followed up on.
Sheriff Max Dorsey attended most of those community safety meetings. He says it was an eye-opening experience to hear how community members felt about recent crimes.
“People are frustrated because there’s a lot of violence in their communities,” Dorsey said. “Drug dealers, guns being fired in all hours of the day and night. We were able to recognize that there’s more frustration than what we first believed.”
Since taking office, following the indictment and suspension of former Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood, Dorsey says he’s been trying to gain back trust in the community. He says distrust may be one of the reasons they are not receiving tips that could help them solve crimes.
“That is something that I have made a personal goal to improve. I know I can’t fix it, but I can play a role in improving it,” Dorsey said.
He says he has been going to homes, meeting with local ministries, and visiting businesses to build trust between them and his department.
He says it will take time to strengthen community relations, so he is also taking other measures to combat crime.
Dorsey says they have a shortage of resources to respond and investigate so many crimes.
“The erratic shootings, there’s no pattern so for the most part you have to be in the right place at the right time to catch these people,” Dorsey said. “We have limited resources. We can’t have a deputy or a city police officer on every corner.”
Still, Dorsey is trying to get more officers on the streets as a preventative measure and to investigate after the fact. Since taking over, Dorsey says he has restructured the Sheriff’s Department by moving a level of management down to the patrol level.
He is also tapping into his resources at the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, where he worked for 24 years prior to his appointment to sheriff.
“They have dedicated SLED agents that are coming here to Chester and they are working with us hand in hand,” Dorsey said. “They are providing intelligence information to us, surveillance, investigative assistance and just manpower in addition to our patrol.”
Still, he says law enforcement can’t keep the community safe without the community’s help.
“We are urging the community to trust us with information," Dorsey said. "Whenever you see something that’s suspicious before the shots are fired, please call us so we can investigate it.”