BT Column 6/18: On Crime, Law and Order in the 29910

Here’s the link to the column that ran June 18, 2014 in Bluffton Today.

Here’s the text

Unfortunately, crime is too random to be defined by a trend


Tim Wood

If there’s one thing I know after 25 years in the journalism business, it’s how to spot a trend.

Editors are always looking for that trend story, and it only takes something to happen twice before we call it a trend, according to some of my less judicious editors through the years.

I remember one paper I worked at in upstate New York during the first big bird flu outbreak in the early 2000s. There were two reports put in to police of people on the same street sneezing and coughing out of control.

Immediately, my editor wanted to do a story on bird flu infecting the city. Could it be happening here? A couple calls later, we found out the neighbors were both on allergy shots and having a real bad time with pollen.

So where am I going with this? A number of readers have written me since I started writing the column again saying, “Boy, things have changed since you were writing regularly. This town is so crime ridden, it’s out of control.”

One wanted me to write a column on how this just isn’t a safe place to live anymore.

So let’s take a look at the facts.

We have had some awful things happening as of late. The Preston Oates trial is making headlines right now, a death resulting from a Christmas Eve argument between neighbors.

We’re mourning the loss of Polly Ann Mitchell, a beloved community pillar in a vicious attack, in May. The senselessness of it all inspires rage. We want answers where there are none.

A Beaufort youngster committed suicide due to bullying. Sun City residents are being scammed out of their life earnings by phone con men.

So I understand the need to label this madness. It’s much easier when we can call it a “crime wave,” the police amp up efforts and then the wave is over and everything is back to normal.

There are things we can do for sure. It’s good to see a task force being formed to fight bullying efforts.

But the vast majority of what we’re seeing around here lately doesn’t add up to a trend, in my humble opinion. I’m not a police officer, I’m simply just zooming out a bit and comparing the decade I’ve been in the Lowcountry.

My wife and I discuss it often. Is this still the place we fell in love with? Do we feel any less safe than we did when we moved here?

We don’t want the real world to penetrate our oasis, but we can’t stop the randomness of human nature.

Does that mean we shrug our shoulders and just put up with it? Of course not. When our neighborhood watch saw too many cars coming and going from a renter’s house up the street, they called in the police.

The place was staked out for a couple days and the police arrested the renters for running a drug house.

It’s alarming to know that on the walk between our house and the elementary school, there were drugs being sold. But it’s equally refreshing that folks cared enough to take action.

Red Cedar went on lockdown this spring when a crime suspect carrying a gun was thought to be on the loose in the nearby neighborhood.

Sitting in the parking lot, waiting to either see my son come out or for shots to start being fired, it’s scary stuff.

In that moment, this feels like the most crime-ridden place in the country. How in the heck could we live here? Put the house on the market tomorrow.

I’m not going to get on my high horse and tell folks to calm down. It’s alarming to see this level of crime and fear hit us so close to home.

All I can say is it’s important to get out of the fishbowl from time to time. I’m fortunate to get to travel around the country and to other countries in my job.

It’s like watching an episode of “Jerry Springer.” I’m scared for humanity but glad that’s not my wife having a baby with my best friend.

When I drive or fly back into the Lowcountry, I realize that no matter how bad these incidents feel, they are isolated.

September 11. Newtown. They’ve changed us for good. There’s a lot more locks on doors than ever before, but that doesn’t mean we become fear-ridden hermits.

Be vigilant without being vigilantes. The bigger picture is that while we can’t always hold back the madness of a few, this is still the same place we all fell in love with.

Tim Wood is a writer living in Bluffton. Email him with comments or story ideas at

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