Sheriff Lott, other county officials cut ribbon on new Midlands Gang Task Force headquarters

Multi-agency substation located in North Columbia

By W. Thomas Smith Jr.


The Richland County Sheriff’s Department (RCSD) opened its seventeenth satellite substation with the new RCSD-led Midlands Gang Task Force (MGTF) headquarters building at 7615 Wilson Boulevard across from Meadowlake Park in north Columbia, Friday, June 30. The headquarters will now serve as the home base for the MGTF which will provide a large meeting room and remote office space for counter-gang units from at least 10 area law-enforcement agencies.

“We don’t have simply one central office that everybody works out of,” said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, moments before cutting the ribbon on the new MGTF facility. “This new remote headquarters location is another example of us being out in the communities where we need to be.”

Lott added: “This is also the third location in which the building itself serves as a combination magistrate’s office [on one side] and an RCSD substation [on the other]: We have one in Blythewood, one in the Dutch Fork area, and now one here in the Upper Township.”

RCSD Senior Captain Vincent Goggins, commander of the MGTF, describes the MGTF as unique and necessary.

“This multi-agency team is unique because there is no other organization quite 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 assisting state and federal partners under one roof,” said Goggins.

MGTF member agencies operate under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) and include RCSD, 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.

“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,” said Sheriff Lott, who adds that in addition to intelligence gathering, information sharing, investigations, and law enforcement; public education has been key in preventing and combatting gang activity in central S.C.

As part of public education and awareness, the RCSD component of the MGTF has often made presentations to area civic clubs and other organizations, hospitals, even the S.C. Military Department. As part of its outreach in north Columbia, the new MGTF building will host neighborhood association meetings and other community events going forward.

“This building is office space for us, but it is also a community room,” said Lott. “This is a great community with great people. Our citizens, especially those living and working in our most vulnerable communities are essential partners in all that we are doing.”

The Honorable Valerie R. Stroman, chief magistrate of Richland County, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony as did the Honorable Phillip F. Newson, retired Richland County magistrate, along with scores of community leaders, neighborhood association members, and law enforcement officers.

– CUTTING THE RIBBON. Pictured (L-R) are Richland County Administrator Leonardo Brown, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, and Richland County Councilwoman Gretchen Barron.