Orangeburg Department of Public Safety Friday morning announces it has created a taskforce to combat increase of carjackings in area

The Orangeburg Department of Public Safety is setting up a special, multi-jurisdictional taskforce to crack down on carjackings.

The department is setting up pursuit, arrest, convict taskforce to help address the problem.

“We are very concerned about the incidents that have taken place, especially since the suspects have demonstrated a reckless disregard for the safety and well-being of our citizens and pose what I believe to be a major public safety threat to our community,” ODPS Chief Charles Austin said during a Friday morning press conference.

“We will spare no expense to pursue, arrest and convict all the suspects involved in these crimes,” he said.

Austin said carjackings are “not exclusive to or unique to Orangeburg.” Other agencies have also reported being in contact with carjackers.

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“We have evidence they may be operating out of one or more jurisdictions and using Orangeburg as the place to commit the crimes,” he said.

The taskforce will include agents from the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, ODPS, the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office and other area jurisdictions including the Bowman, Santee, Norway police departments and Berkeley County.

“It is very helpful and beneficial for all of us to work together,” he said. “I am excited about the prospects not just in this instance but in the long term I think we may be able to develop MOAs (memoranda of agreement) and MOUs (memoranda of understanding) between our agencies going forward that will be beneficial to all of us.”

Austin said there are five different carjackings under investigation in the city, although a number of carjackings have occurred over a couple of months.

“They have been sporadic, they have been random,” Austin said. “They are really difficult to make sense out of it. They are not really taking anything.”

Austin said an investigation is underway to determine if the carjackings are related, but he did note, “they are acting like a gang and we are going to treat them like a gang.”

Austin estimates three vehicles have been stolen and the other victims have been able to drive off.

A Nov. 18 incident at the Orangeburg Mall prompted the creation of the task force, Austin said.

In that incident, a 62-year-old man was shot in the mall parking lot as a gunman demanded his vehicle.

ODPS officers arrived and found the 62-year-old man in the front driver’s seat of his vehicle.

He had wounds that appeared to have stemmed from his vehicle striking a tractor-trailer delivery truck in an attempt to get away from the carjacker.

He was airlifted to Prisma Health Richland Hospital in Columbia. Officials say the victim has recovered from his injuries.

“That says to me they are willing to use violence to carry out these crimes,” Austin said. “That was a big part of the reason that spurred me to say we need help. I am one of those people who has no problem when I realize I need help. I have no problem asking for it.”

Orangeburg Mayor Michael Butler expressed his hope that the taskforce will help to make “Orangeburg and the surrounding areas safer for our residents” and “get criminals off our streets.”

Under South Carolina law, the crime of carjacking is defined as the use of force, violence or threat, to take a motor vehicle from another person while that person is operating or in the vehicle.

A person convicted of carjacking is guilty of a felony and faces a maximum 20-year prison sentence. However, if great bodily injury is a direct result of the carjacking, the person faces a maximum 30-year sentence.

In addition to the Orangeburg Mall carjacking, a number of other carjacking incidents have occurred in Orangeburg County.

Some include:

• Nov. 17 – A 32-year-old woman was the victim of an armed robbery and carjacking the night of Nov. 17 in the parking lot of the Original House of Pizza on John C. Calhoun Drive.

The woman was sitting in a 2021 Toyota Camry with the driver’s side door open shortly before 9 p.m. She was talking on her phone and waiting for her mother to return with food, according to an incident report.

Two males approached. The woman initially thought they were her mother coming back to ask about the order, according to an incident report.

One male put a gun to her head and the one entered the vehicle from the passenger side, told her to get out and grabbed her phone.

• Oct. 22 – A woman was yanked from her car at gunpoint in the parking lot of the Walmart Supercenter on North Road.

The incident occurred at 3:57 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 22, just as the woman arrived at work.

As the woman sat in the driver’s seat of her Toyota Camry, she noticed a bright light shining through her driver’s door window.

A man opened her car door and yanked her from it, causing her to fall to the ground, according to an incident report.

Another man entered her front passenger’s door and moved over to the driver’s seat.

As the woman tried to get up and into her car, the man in the driver’s seat pointed a gun at her.

That man drove off in her car while the first man left in a red Chevrolet Impala.

• Sept. 19 – A man allegedly stole a 2015 GMC Acadia on Ellis Avenue at gunpoint before breaking into a Chimney Swift Circle residence in Cameron.

Deputies found the keys to the stolen vehicle in the rear bedroom of the home and the car in the backyard. A stolen pistol was also found in the home.

The man was eventually charged with first-degree burglary, possession of a weapon by a person convicted of a violent felony, possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, possession of a stolen pistol and first-offense possession of less than one gram of cocaine base.

• Aug. 1 – A man was robbed of his car at gunpoint in the Edisto Memorial Gardens upper parking lot on Seaboard Street.

The man was sitting in his 2015 silver Kia Optima at noon with the windows down on his driver’s and passenger’s sides.

Three males in masks approached him. At least one of them pulled out a handgun and pointed it the man’s head, the report said.

The males ordered the man to get out of the car while one of the males got into the passenger’s seat, the report states.

They took the man’s wallet and phone before taking off in his Optima.

• May 11 – Multiple gunmen carjacked an Orangeburg man’s Toyota Camry.

Around 4:30 p.m., a white Lexus pulled in front of a Shadowlawn Drive residence where the victim’s silver Toyota Camry was parked in the driveway.

The victim said he was seated in the vehicle when two gunmen exited the Lexus and forced him out of his car at gunpoint.

After the victim exited his vehicle, the Lexus and the victim’s Toyota sped away toward nearby Belleville Road.

• April 23-24 – An Orangeburg man and two teens allegedly spent the weekend in a violent crime spree that included an attempted carjacking in two separate incidents.

They were eventually charged with armed robbery, criminal conspiracy and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.

Officials claimed the three rode around in a car stolen out of Branchville to prey on unsuspecting motorists.

On the afternoon of April 24, a woman reported two armed males approached her car at a Springfield gas station. One approached from the front and another in the back.

The males sped off in the woman’s black 2009 Honda Civic.

About 40 minutes later, investigators were called to the Dollar General at the junction of North and Kennerly roads where another Orangeburg County woman reported an attempted carjacking.

In the Kennerly Road incident, the woman locked her doors and sounded her car horn. As a result, the gunmen fled.

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