A Camden apartment complex recently celebrated not only major renovations and improvements, but the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office’s (KCSO) help in curtailing drug and other criminal activity there.
Riverwinds Apartments, just outside Camden’s city limits, is owned by Georgia-based Wheat, Wilczewki and Jaco and locally managed by Boyd Management of Columbia. Boy oversees more than 300 properties in the Southeast.
Riverwinds Site Manager Melanie Bennett said the decision to do the renovations, which she called “rehab,” was based on several factors.
“Boyd Management goes through the age of the property and the progression of the property and that’s when they decide who will get rehabbed. There’s a list and they follow it,” Bennett said. “Sometimes change is not always good with everybody, but here at Riverwinds you could just tell the difference. The rehab consisted of getting new cabinets, counter tops, new flooring, new painting and these are people’s homes, so you’re dealing with occupied units with families inside, so we all had to work together to get the job done.”
Bennett said residents have become more acquainted with each other, going a long way toward keeping troublemakers off the property.
“The person downstairs in Building One knows the person upstairs in Building Six. They know their family. They know their friends. Everybody looks after everybody. It’s got personality and charisma and enthusiasm,” Bennett said. “It’s still ongoing, but it has turned the property around like night and day. It’s a wonderful place a family can thrive from.”
Bennett said the KCSO has been very helpful in answering calls about suspicious people or vehicles at the property and, just by being a presence, lets criminals know they are seen.
“You can have a security camera and it can look at everything all day long, but if you don’t have the backup from your police department to help you use those security cameras in a way that’s beneficial for everyone, there’s no need to have them,” Bennett said. “At one time, some of the areas here were used for loitering or some activity that needed to get the police involved. They were Johnny-on-the-spot. I worked with several of the narcotics agents from Kershaw County, hand-in-hand. They would call me and ask ‘do you know this person. Is this person really a resident?’ and things of that nature. The (KCSO) was very diligent in helping get the property to where it needs to be.”
Riverwinds hosted a special event Thursday afternoon attended by residents; Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews and members of his staff; and firefighters from the Camden Fire Department, who gave advice and demonstrations on fire safety.
“This general area was kind of a problem for us. We’ve had drive-by shootings, we’ve had a lot of drug dealing. The good people who live in the apartment complex were concerned. Fortunately, the management here got on top of it and cleaned the place up. They’re screening people. If you’re a troublemaker, they boot you out,” Matthews said. “They’re making it a safe place for people to raise their children. That was important to us.”
Matthews told residents not to hesitate calling his office when they see someone suspicious in the complex, and they do not have to draw attention to themselves.
“If you look out your window and see somebody fooling around a car and they’re not supposed to be there, say ‘do not send a deputy by my house,’ but give a description of who you see, what they’re wearing and so forth,” Matthews said. “If you call and say ‘I want to remain anonymous,’ we’re not going to tell anybody your name. We’re good about keeping that stuff quiet.”
Resident Jessie Harris took a turn at learning the proper use of a fire extinguisher under the guidance of Camden Assistant Fire Chief Eddie Gardner. Harris said he appreciates the improvements he’s seen in the area.
“Man, a couple of years back it was awful out here,” he said. “It was like mad awful out here, but it’s all good now.”