Greenville Co. Sheriff Will Lewis talks crime stats, challenges, - FOX Carolina 21

Greenville Co. Sheriff Will Lewis talks crime stats, challenges, successes, leaves message for his critics after year one in office

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One-on-one with Sheriff Will Lewis after his first year in office (FOX Carolina: 2/23/2017). One-on-one with Sheriff Will Lewis after his first year in office (FOX Carolina: 2/23/2017).

For the first time since the start of the year, FOX Carolina sat down with Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis for a one-on-one interview.

Sheriff Lewis said there's a lot of challenges he didn't realize he'd face in year one. One of those challenges was handling his staff.

"From a human perspective it's very difficult not to become attached to the men and women that work with you... Some of the same people that you love and care for you have to discipline and that's difficult," said Lewis.

In 2017, though, the Sheriff said regardless of challenges there, violent crimes as a whole dropped by nearly 7% in 2017 from 1681 in 2016 to 1568. He attributed that in part to separating out more specialized crime units, including the creation of a Special Operations Division, or SOD, which is a full time SWAT team.

"The other thing they're able to do is get out on the road as a unit and supplement and directly focus on areas that have maybe a higher crime trend at a given time, multiple shootings in a specific area," said Lewis.

While things are going well on patrol, Sheriff Lewis did say he wished he devoted more time to getting out in the community, talking more with the public. Yet, he said it's a tough role to balance.

"Sometimes you're able to switch off and go out to dinner with your wife. You know, five or six people will come up and talk to you in the middle of it. So appreciative of it, at the same time it's just one of those things that I really enjoy. Sometimes I just want time with my wife. Sometimes I just want time with my kids," said Sheriff Lewis.

Lewis said he's got a lot more to accomplish in 2018, from closing the county's six unsolved murders from 2017 to continuing to fight the war on drugs. 

One of those unsolved murders was the death of 17-year-old Makiya Hawkins. Sheriff Lewis said deputies conducted upwards of 70 witness interviews but the case remains open.

"There's no murder that's more important than another. But there's rarely a day that goes by that I don't think about Makiya Hawkins murder... I would be sorely, sorely disappointed if I left office whenever I decide to leave office or whenever I leave office, I would be sorely disappointed, if that case isn't solved," said Lewis.

Another case that rocked the community happened when a member of Greenville's Design Review Board and Uber driver, 59-year-old Michael Mecklenberg, was found shot to death in a car. It's a case Sheriff Lewis said his deputies could be close to cracking.

"The Mecklenberg case is a very solvable case. It's just a matter of working through some of the intricacies of the technology side of it," said Lewis. 

The Mecklenberg and Hawkins cases were just two of the 27 unsolved murders in Greenville County in 2017. The year prior, there were 24. 

"It's disappointing to see any murder… watching the numbers increase from last year where we rose to 27. Three of those last year unfortunately were murder suicides," said Lewis.

Another number that rose were drugs and narcotics cases which were up 17% from 2016 which were 2025. The cases jumped to 2377 in 2017, but Sheriff Lewis said that means his deputies are actually winning the war on drugs.

"The number of labs are down significantly but the number of arrests are up tremendously because we are focusing a lot of our attention on the narcotics problem in Greenville County," "said Lewis.

Asking him about his toughest cases of the year, Sheriff Lewis said the hardest crimes for him to hear about are the ones the Specialized Investigations Division handle. Those deputies investigate sex crimes and crimes against children.

"The cases that I'm so proud of our men and women for making are the ICAC cases. The cases where children are involved. You want to see somebody get hot when somebody tries to come after a child. That drives me insane," said Sheriff Lewis.

FOX Carolina also intended to ask Sheriff Lewis about what he wants the public to know in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment and assault from a former employee. He told FOX Carolina he would not comment on that while SLED is still investigating.

We did ask him what he would say to the people who called for his resignation at the end of 2017. The Sheriff responded, "Thank you for the motivation to do better. I appreciate that."

Copyright 2018 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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