Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Encourages Hands Free Driving in Addition to New South Carolina No Texting Law

Sheriff's Badge

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)———————————–This week, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley signed into law a statewide texting ban. This law states a driver cannot text while their vehicle is moving on any highway in South Carolina. This new law does supersede the recently passed Distracted Driving Ordinance that was passed by Oconee County Council. This means that legally, you can talk with a cellphone in your hand while driving. However, Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw still wants to remind motorists of the dangers of distracted driving.

The Distracted Driving Ordinance that was previously in effect and which was passed by Oconee County Council on April 15th stated that an individual could not text or talk on a cell phone or other portable electronic communication device in a vehicle that was in motion on a public highway without the use of a hands free device. If the vehicle was stopped or stationary, for instance at traffic light or legally parked, then an individual could talk or text without the use of a hands free device. Once again, this ordinance is no longer in effect with the legislature passing this new law.

Under provisions of the new No Texting Ban passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Haley, an individual cannot compose, send or view a text message while their vehicle is in motion on a public road or highway. In regards to law enforcement, an officer cannot stop an individual under the new law unless the officer has probable cause based on a clear and unobstructed view that the person operating the vehicle was indeed texting, reading a text, or sending a text. An officer cannot ask to see or search or view or require an individual to relinquish their phone because of a violation or search the vehicle or individuals in a vehicle based on this violation or make an arrest upon a violation of the No Texting Ban unless that individual has an outstanding warrant. For the first 180 days after the Governor’s signature, officers can only issue warning tickets. Once that passes, fines will range from $25 for first offenses to $50 for subsequent offenses and violations will not be reported to insurance companies and there will be no fees, assessments or surcharges on the tickets that are issued.

Distracted driving continues to be a serious issue around the country. Oconee County is no exception. Sheriff Mike Crenshaw cautions citizens that even though you can talk while driving with a cell phone in your hand, this still at times takes your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road, and your mind off the task of driving.

The Sheriff’s Office encourages everyone to drive hands free. It will decrease your chances of being involved in an accident and make our highways safer for everyone. Parents with children just getting their driver’s license should look at investing in a hands free device to use with a cell phone. These devices range in price from approximately $20.00 to $75.00. This small investment could save a life from a tragic fatal accident.

Dialing someone’s telephone number while you are driving takes a few seconds. This takes a driver’s eyes off the road. At 55 mph, if we take our eyes off the road for just over 4 seconds, this is like driving the length of a football field blindfolded.

Sheriff Crenshaw has mandated through policy that all deputies drive hands free in relation to cell phone use.

Oconee County Sheriff’s Office: OffenderWatch® a sex offender mapping and alerting service aids citizens in avoiding dangerous homes

In Oconee County, there is approximately 154 registered sex offenders. With summer around the corner, the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office encourages citizens to review our website to see which of these offenders live around them. The mapping and address feature found on the website pinpoints exactly where an offender lives and citizens can even sign up for automatic email alerts should an offender move close within any address they register (radius is specified upon registration).

“The benefit of registering for this confidential e-mail alert service allows us to monitor your important addresses for you, thereby keeping you up to date of newly registered offenders and making it unnecessary for you to have to check your important addresses daily or even weekly. You can register any and all of the addresses where your children spend a lot of time, for example friends, grandparents, or babysitters addresses” says Sheriff Mike Crenshaw. The alerts are in real-time and sent out via e-mail as soon as a new offender has registered with the
Oconee County Sheriff’s Office

The website for the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office is www.oconeelaw.com. Citizens should click on the link Sex Offender Search and follow the instructions to check their neighborhood and sign up to receive e-mail alerts. Also be sure to check out our safety tips with many topics to review helping you and your family understand what you can do to help stay safe.

Sheriff Mike Crenshaw encourages everyone to have a safe and fun summer. Knowledge is power and knowing where the registered sex offenders reside in your area can help you make the best choices for safe and enjoyable summer activities.

Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Arrests Seneca Man on Burglary, Larceny Charges

James Anthony Reed

James Anthony Reed

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)———————————–The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Seneca man yesterday on burglary and larceny charges in relation to an incident that occurred in late May.

23 year old James Anthony Reed, whose address on warrants is listed as 311 Allen Street, was booked into the Oconee County Detention Center around 12:13pm on charges of Second Degree Burglary and Grand Larceny.

A complainant spoke with an Oconee County Sheriff’s deputy on June 2nd in regards to items that were missing from a residence on Silent Creek Road in Walhalla. The items reported missing were electronic items and jewelry, with the total value of the items taken around $3,500. The complainant’s family was on vacation between May 21st and May 29th and noticed when they returned that some of the electronic items were gone.

As the investigation continued, it was determined by an investigator that Reed, who was doing work at the residence during the time of the vacation, had broken in and entered the home on May 28th and taken the items at that time, according to warrants.

At this time, Reed is being held at the Detention Center on a $40,000 surety bond.

Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Seeks Public’s Help to Solve November 2013 Seneca Burglary and Larceny

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)—————————–The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office is seeking the public’s help regarding a burglary and larceny from November 2013 that occurred in the Seneca area.

Deputies responded to 1460 South Walnut Street in Seneca on November 3rd around 12:17pm in regards to a burglary. The complainant told deputies that he had returned home from church and noticed a gun from his gun rack was missing. The complainant told the deputy that the only items that were missing were $60 dollars in cash and a Marlin Lever Action .22 Rifle from the gun rack that was valued at around $250.

Upon further investigation, the deputy discovered that entry had been made into the home through a window and the exit from the home occurred through a door in the house. It appeared that the burglar had cut himself upon entry into the home due to blood located nearby. The case was turned over to the Criminal Investigations Division of the Sheriff’s Office.

If you have any information on this November 2013 burglary and larceny, contact Crime Stoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC, 864-638-STOP, or text in your tip to 274637. You don’t have to give your name and if you tip leads to an arrest, you could be eligible for a cash reward.

Oconee County Sheriff’s Office to host Coffee with a Cop on June 25th, 2014

Coffee With A Cop Logo

(Walhalla, SC)—On June 25th, officers from the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office and community members will come together in an informal, neutral space to discuss community issues, build relationships, and drink coffee.

All community members are invited to attend. The event begins at 8am on June 25th at Palmetto Sweets and Company at 115 East Main Street in Walhalla. Please contact Jimmy Watt with questions: 864-638-4199 or jwatt@oconeelaw.com.

Coffee with a Cop provides a unique opportunity for community members to ask questions and learn more about the department’s work in Oconee County neighborhoods.

The majority of contacts law enforcement has with the public happen during emergencies, or emotional situations. Those situations are not always the most effective times for relationship building with the community, and some community members may feel that officers are unapproachable on the street. Coffee with a Cop breaks down barriers and allows for a relaxed, one-on-one interaction.

“We hope that community members will feel comfortable to ask questions, bring concerns, or simply get to know our officers,” said Oconee County Sheriff Mike Crenshaw. “These interactions are the foundation of community partnerships.”

Coffee with a Cop is a national initiative supported by The United States Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Similar events are being held across the county, as local police departments strive to make lasting connections with the communities they serve.

The program aims to advance the practice of community policing through improving relationships between police officers and community members one cup of coffee at a time.

Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Adopts-a-Highway in Oconee County

OCSO - Adopt-a-Highway Sign

(Walhalla, SC)———————————–Within the past few weeks, signs have been posted along a two mile stretch in Oconee County along Highway 11 indicating that the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office is participating in the Adopt-a-Highway program.

The area along Highway 11 that the Sheriff’s Office has adopted encompasses where the Scenic Highway intersects Highway 183 down to Oconee Station Road near Pickett Post Road. The Sheriff’s Office is required to pick up trash along their designated stretch of highway at least four times a year and deputies and their families have done so already once. The officers, staff and their families volunteer their time on Saturdays to meet the goals of the Adopt –a-Highway program.

This part of Oconee County carries a special significance for the Sheriff’s Office, as this area is where the late Oconee County Sheriff’s Deputy Bill Schuck passed away back in February of 2010. In fact, the reason the Sheriff’s Office wanted to adopt this part of Highway 11 was in part to remember Deputy Schuck.

According to Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Environmental Services Officer Corporal Tim Rice, the process to adopt the highway began with talks with Fred Baline, who is the Adopt-a-Highway Coordinator for Oconee County. The signs designating that the Sheriff’s Office had adopted the highway were posted back in the early part of April.

The Sheriff’s Office would not be able to accomplish the task of keeping this section of Highway 11 free of litter without the organizations the Sheriff’s Office has partnered with. The Sheriff’s Office has partnered with the Keep Oconee Beautiful Association to help to get the word out about how litter destroys the beauty of Oconee County. Palmetto Pride keeps track of the amount of trash that has been picked up in terms of the pounds of trash, plus the number of people that participate in the trash pick-ups and the number of hours that volunteers work. The South Carolina Department of Transportation put up the Adopt-a-Highway signs that are visible now and they provide the volunteers with safety vests and bags that are used to pick up the litter.

“This is a great way for the employees of the Sheriff’s Office to give back to their community,” according to Corporal Rice. “It is my hope that we are setting a good example for the citizens and residents we serve to get involved in their communities and give back as well.”

Corporal Rice also recommends that groups and individuals adopt their own section of highway as well. You are welcome to contact Corporal Rice with the Sheriff’s Office at 864-638-4627 or by e-mail at trice@oconeelaw.com. You can also contact Cathy Washburn with KOBA as well via e-mail for information at koba@kobasc.com.

Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Honored at Oconee County School

Deputy Charles Mulwee and Northside Elementary Principal Geoff Smith

Deputy Charles Mulwee and Northside Elementary Principal Geoff Smith

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)———————————–Oconee County Sheriff’s Office deputy Charles Mulwee was honored recently for his volunteer work at Northside Elementary School.

Mulwee was attending an award ceremony when he was asked by Principal Geoff Smith and Assistant Principal Karen Black to come up on stage and be recognized and receive an award before the parents and grandparents assembled there on May 30th.

Deputy Mulwee also volunteers to students at Blue Ridge and Ravenel Elementary Schools.

Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Arrests Walhalla Man on Weapons Charges

Kevin Wayne Maler

Kevin Wayne Maler

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)———————————–The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Walhalla man on weapons charges Tuesday afternoon.

48 year old Kevin Wayne Maler was booked into the Oconee County Detention Center around 4:39pm the same afternoon. A warrant obtained against Mr. Maler charges him with Unlawful Carrying of a Pistol. The warrant lists Maler’s address as 1821 Westminster Highway in Walhalla.

An Oconee County Sheriff’s Office deputy during routine road patrol duties pulled a vehicle over in the Timberlake area for failure to yield and for not using a turn signal. The female driver and Maler, who was a passenger, gave the deputy conflicting stories. The deputy observed Maler being nervous and asked Maler to exit the vehicle. The deputy asked Maler if he had anything illegal on him and for consent to pat him down, which Maler agreed to. The deputy felt the grip of the firearm along Maler’s waste line and asked Maler what the object was, to which Maler replied it was a gun. The deputy then secured Maler and he was transported to the Oconee County Detention Center.

According to the warrants, Maler unlawfully carried the firearm on his person and was not authorized to do so. The incident occurred at Coneross Point Drive at Highway 24 near Townville as a result of a traffic stop, according to the arrest warrant.

Maler was released from the Oconee County Detention Center on June 5th. His bond amount was a $5,000 surety bond.

Oconee County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officer Norm Dukes Receives Recognition and Awards

Dukes - TS Middle and High Support Employee of the Year

Norm Dukes - Plague from TS Athletic Department

Norm Dukes - SDOC Support Employee of the Year

School Resource Officer Norm Dukes

School Resource Officer Norm Dukes

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)——————————–Oconee County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officer Norm Dukes recently received recognition from the Oconee County School District, as well as from Tamassee-Salem Middle and High Schools.

Earlier this spring, Dukes was awarded the School District Support Employee of the Year for the 2014-15 school year. There are currently 627 support employees who work for the school district and each facility as well as the district office nominates one individual each for the award. Dukes was eligible for the district award by virtue of being named by Tamassee-Salem High and Middle School the Support Employee of the year. All the individual winners, including Dukes, went before a screening committee, who made the decision on the overall School District winner.

Also this year, both the athletic department and the special needs class at Tamassee- Salem High recognized Dukes for helping to raise money for both during his walk from the North Carolina line to the steps of the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia. The walk, which covered 168 miles, raised $2,030, which was split evenly between the athletic department and the special needs class.

Dukes is the School Resource Officer for Tamassee-Salem Elementary, Middle and High Schools.

Oconee County Sheriff’s Office Arrests Westminster Man on Burglary, Larceny Charges

Steven Lamar Craig

Steven Lamar Craig

William Kyle Craig

William Kyle Craig

By: Jimmy Watt
Public Information Officer

(Walhalla, SC)———————————–The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Westminster man yesterday morning on burglary and larceny charges in relation to an incident that occurred in late May. The Sheriff’s Office is still seeking one other individual who also has arrest warrants in the case.

45 year old Steven Lamar Craig, whose address is listed on arrest warrants as 171 Harbin Road in Westminster, was booked into the Oconee County Detention Center around 7:22am.

An Oconee County Sheriff’s Deputy responded to an address on Dr. John’s Road in Westminster the morning of Tuesday, May 27th in regards to a burglary that occurred between 5:30pm on May 26th and 8:30am on May 27th in which a Stihl Chop Saw, a Kawasaki dirt bike, a fresh air blower, a back pack blower, a 5500 watt generator and an air wrench were taken from a blue building on the property.

The investigation that ensued led to the issuance of arrest warrants against Craig, charging him with Grand Larceny and Second Degree Burglary. Investigators report that the dirt bike, the air blower and the air wrench have been recovered. The other items are still missing.

Craig is still being held at the Oconee County Detention Center on a combined $35,000 surety bond.

The other individual being sought by the Sheriff’s Office is Steven Lamar Craig’s son, 21 year old William Kyle Craig, whose address on warrants is also 171 Harbin Road. The younger Craig is also facing charges of Second Degree Burglary and Grand Larceny in the same case, according to arrest warrants.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of William Kyle Craig, contact Crime Stoppers at 864-638-STOP, 1-888-CRIME-SC, or text in your tip to 274637. You don’t have to give your name and if your tip leads to an arrest, you could be eligible for a cash reward.