Keeping the community safe requires a commitment.
“I’m very thankful for the excellent men and women we have at the West Columbia Police Department,” said Chief Marion Boyce. “They go out and do their job despite the circumstances. We have a professional, dedicated staff.”
To help the department become more efficient, Boyce has incorporated a new strategy.
Pictured below: Chris Yarborough, SRAA School Resource Officer, with former Saluda River SRO India Taylor, at a ceremony to dedicate a butterfly garden to Thomas Stork, a Saluda River student who died of cancer in 1996.
“We’ve become more focused on a data-driven policing model,” he said. “To do that we’ve determined where some of our ‘hotspots’ are and we will station more of a police presence there. For instance, if the data shows more traffic accidents at a particular intersection from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m., we’ll put more officers there in an effort to combat aggressive driving behavior.”
In addition to adjusting resources based on call count, the West Columbia Police Department partners with USC’s College of Social Work in a program that provides graduate level social work interns who follow up on police calls to help the vulnerable with post-crisis services.
On Nov. 30 more than 30 Lexington County-based organizations, including law enforcement, EMS, healthcare and mental health service providers came together at the Brookland Baptist Church Banquet and Conference Center in West Columbia. The groups met to discuss ways to curb the amount of time police spend dealing with substance abuse and mental health issues. Boyce was at that meeting.
“There has been a spike in issues surrounding mental health and substance abuse in the last year or so,” Boyce said. That increase adds to the value of the partnership with USC social work interns. Boyce also said the program was recently evaluated to determine client satisfaction.
Rhonda DiNovo oversees the College of Social Work intern program with the WCPD.
“It’s been very successful,” she said. “We’ve surveyed those we serve on the calls and the police officers and they report a high level of satisfaction with the program.” Boyce agreed.
“Our relationship with the USC College of Social Work has been really good,” he said. “We’ve seen a 50 percent decrease in police contact since we started the social work outreach program. Decreasing recidivism is why we did it. Everybody wins.”
While police work can be challenging, Boyce said there are rewards.
“There is a lot of respect for the job law enforcement does from the people of West Columbia and in Lexington County,” he said. “I have people tell me how much they appreciate my service.”
Boyce also said it is important to recognize the hard work of the officers of the West Columbia Police Department.
“We had to cancel our Law Enforcement Appreciation in 2021, but we’re planning on having a banquet this spring.”
Another task of the West Columbia Police Department is to provide School Resource Officers for Lexington Two Schools in West Columbia. Those SROs are a visible example of protection that law enforcement provides. Having the officers in the schools also helps increase the level of trust children have for the police.