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Sheriff: Community trust a priority

Community engagement and building trust continue to be a priority for the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office.

“We have a lot of ground to make up on for what was allowed in the past,” Sheriff Chris Malphrus said. “As the new sheriff, I’m sick and tired of it. I’m sick and tired of people losing their life, of the complete disregard for law enforcement and citizens of this county.”

Malphrus and many of the deputies believe that the community had lost trust and faith in the Sheriff’s Office. They described the previous administration as complacent or nonchalant with information provided by the public.

Since Malphrus took over the office has undergone staffing changes, increases and movement.

Malphrus campaigned hard on community engagement and involvement, so it’s integral to him that he remains transparent with the operations of the office – that includes following up on tips from residents.

“It isn’t about the money – it’s about helping the community get clean and doing what’s right,” said Deputy Shawn Lather.

Malphrus and his team have made a new Facebook page that keeps the public updated, and there are anonymous tip lines for drug crime (843-726-7779, ext. 255) and for specific investigations, such as the Bryan Riley homicide (843-726-7779, ext. 4160).

“They’re still a little reluctant to come forward with their name and everything, but they’re calling us and giving us information,” said Lt. Mike Atwood. “They see the job that we’re doing and they know their calls are not going to be disregarded. I’ve noticed a lot more people calling on a daily basis – whether it be narcotics information or stolen property or whatever – they’re reaching out.”

Malphrus is encouraged by the community’s willingness to share information, noting that in the past that kind of community engagement was not common at the office.

He cited tips that helped lead to the arrest of David Hugue Jr. in connection with the shooting death of Lamont Heyward.

“It took us about 24 hours to have enough solid evidence to get an arrest warrant for murder. The issue at that point was locating (the suspect),” Malphrus said. “The public has begun to reach out and confide in us about the criminal activity that is happening in this county.”

Malphrus said he and his deputies are taking every bit of information, and tips, seriously.

“Every single time we get a phone call we follow it up; sometimes it falls to nothing, sometimes it helps us catch a murder suspect and sometimes it helps us get guns and drugs off the street,” said Malphrus.

Commercial burglary

There was a commercial burglary at Classic City Utilities, the Hardeeville field office for the Georgia-based company, at the intersection of Limehouse Road and Freedom Parkway on Feb. 25, according to the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office.

“We recovered approximately $30,000 to $40,0000 worth of stolen property,” said Atwood. “While they were taking that report, one of our other officers spotted the vehicle in Point South. We recovered a Dodge truck, a trailer, and a Kubota mini excavator.”

The property was recovered before the scene of the crime was finished being processed.

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