Agency collaboration aids in thwarting violent criminal activity
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
The multi-agency Midlands Gang Task Force (MGTF) and the Midlands Fugitive Task Force (MFTF) joined forces in June to form The Midlands Gang and Fugitive Task Force (MGFTF). The merger was announced during the MGFTF’s quarterly meeting held at RCSD’s Region 2 substation, Wed., July 28.
For the past several years, the MGTF has been tasked with disrupting and dismantling illegal gangs operating throughout the Midlands of South Carolina by means of combining single agency resources, expanding communication – through increased information and intelligence sharing – better productivity and a decrease in duplication of effort. Whereas the MFTF has operated as an investigative unit, also multi-agency, with a basic mission of locating and apprehending violent criminals.
“Combining both task forces alleviates any manpower concerns as well as any duplication of effort because most gang members fit into the ‘violent criminal’ category,” said Richland County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Vincent Goggins, commander of the MGFTF. “This new merger also enables us to more effectively support smaller partnering agencies which may not have the resources to host a full-time fugitive team.”
The MGFTF member agencies under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) include the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, the Columbia Police Department, the Irmo Police Department, the University of South Carolina Police Department, the Cayce Department of Public Safety (Police), the Forest Acres Police Department, the S.C. Department of Corrections, the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole, and Pardon Services, the Benedict College Campus Police Department, the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, the Fifth Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office (assigned Assistant Solicitor), the Columbia Housing Authority Police, and the U.S. Secret Service.
Non-MOU partners include the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the U.S. Marshal’s Office among others.
Quarterly meetings cover newly gathered and processed finished-intelligence, ongoing investigations, and investigative-based techniques.
“This multi-agency partnership is unique because there is no other like it in the Palmetto State, and no other like-task force that I am aware of nationwide that brings to bear the resources of local departments with state and federal partners under one roof,” said Goggins.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said, “We are a truly unique task force, but we are seeing other regions across the state and the southeastern United States looking at what we are doing and have been doing as a model for their own law enforcement agencies.”
Public education has also been key in preventing and combatting gang activity in central S.C. The Richland County Sheriff’s Department component of the MGTF has often made presentations to area civic clubs and other organizations, hospitals, even the S.C. Military Department. The education piece will continue under the new MGFTF.
“Our citizens, especially those living and working in our most vulnerable communities are essential partners in all that we are doing,” said Lott.
The July 28 meeting was attended by Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, Columbia Chief of Police Skip Holbrook, Irmo Chief of Police Courtney Dennis, various unit commanders, investigators (detectives), intelligence analysts and others.
– Pictured L-R are Chief Holbrook, Sheriff Lott, and Chief Dennis following Wednesday’s MGFTF meeting.