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      Crime Watch working in Dillon County

      Dillon County Sheriff Major Hulon says the county's crime rate went down 17% from 2010 to 2011, and he's praising neighborhood watch groups for much of the success.

      One of those groups is made up of women in the Mill Pond community. They say for a long time, they were crime victims in their own neighborhood. Vandalism, loitering, loud music and thefts were common in Mill Pond.

      "They figured because it being an elderly community that they could just take advantage of the situation," said Patricia Miller, who lives in Mill Pond.

      Dillon County Sheriff Major Hulon met with the women and encouraged them to start a neighborhood crime watch group.

      They did and with great results.

      "The elderly, the age factor is not an factor here because we have people that's 87 and they will stand up to anyone that comes through if they are doing something they not supposed to they will speak out," Miller said.

      In 2009, there were only three communities with neighborhood watch groups in Dillon County. Now, there are 14, and Sheriff Hulon believes that's one of the reasons for the reduction in crime.

      "When we look at 14 neighborhood watches and our crime rate going down 17% in from this year to last year and in three years a 20% decrease in our incident reports which reflects our crime. My goodness if you can't call that stellar, I don't know what we can call it," said Sheriff Major Hulon.

      The Oakgrove neighborhood watch group covers 13 miles, ending at the Marlboro County line. There are more than 700 homes in the area.

      Oakgrove uses captains for each neighborhood, but is just as effective as the Mill Pond group.

      "We got a call list that we see something out of the unusual, we start notifying the captains and as one captain makes a priority call to the county sheriff's department, we're out riding and looking - taking tag numbers and seeing who is doing what then we notify of what's going on," said Randy Cook.

      Cook says they've seen a big difference in the number of home invasions, burglaries and drug deals taking place in their community.

      The Oakgrove group has also applied to recieve a 501(c)(3) status, so they can qualify for state and federal grants. The members say they wish to buy surveillance cameras and help deputies fund a substation for the Oakgrove community.

      Sheriff Hulon credits the success of the neighborhood watch groups to the entire community pitching in to make the county a safer place to live.

      "Our cooperation from the city of Dillon officers, town of Lake View, town of Latta and yet working together. Our Solicitor's Office, our council members supporting us. This neighborhood watch program has just taken off and I'm just in awe," said Sheriff Hulon.

      Hulon says even more communities now plan to organize crimewatch groups in Dillon County.