Law Enforcement

The core mission of the SCDNR’s Law Enforcement Division is:

  1. to conserve and protect the state’s natural resources for social, economic, recreational, and commercial benefit while providing maximum human utilization;
  2. to preserve the peace and protect human lives and property;
  3. to develop public support through outreach, education, and safety programs; and
  4. to enforce the state’s and federal criminal laws through the detection, apprehension, and prosecution of persons who violate those laws.

Law enforcement officers doing a boat inspectionIn addition to the primary natural resources and boating enforcement missions, the Division routinely assists other public safety and law enforcement agencies with homeland security, civil disturbance prevention, response to natural and man-made disasters, search and rescue missions, manhunts, the enforcement of public safety laws, and crime prevention.

The Division, operating from its Columbia headquarters at 1000 Assembly Street, conducts South Carolina’s hunter and boater education courses and investigates boating and hunting accidents. SCDNR enforcement officers regularly conduct search and rescue missions to outlying areas and assist other law enforcement agencies in investigations. South Carolina’s corps of natural resources enforcement officers is organized into four regions covering groups of the state’s 46 counties and coastal marine shoreline and waters out to 200 miles. Regional offices are located in Clemson, Columbia, Florence and Charleston.

Regional offices and the officers working from them are connected by a 24-hour radio system with a primary station in Columbia. A 24-hour toll-free number (1-800-922-5431) is maintained for emergencies requiring immediate law enforcement assistance from a natural resources officer. Any person may call this number anonymously to report a conservation law violation or provide information that could lead to the arrest of a violator and become eligible for a cash reward through the Operation Game Thief Program.

The primary mission of the SCDNR law enforcement officer is to protect the natural resources and those who utilize them. This mission takes on many forms, including crime detection, arrest and prosecution of offenders, formal education efforts, and gaining compliance through informal educational efforts including warnings and instructions. Immeasurable crime deterrence is achieved through officer presence in the field. Ultimately, the role of the officer is to gain compliance with the laws; provide information to sportsmen, boaters, and the public; educate resources users; and ensure that the resources are conserved for the enjoyment and use of the public.

This responsible proactive outcome-oriented approach can be evidenced by consistent data showing that officers are as likely to educate the public regarding a violation through the use of warnings, as they are to bring formal charges in order to resolve violations encountered in the field. The trend over the last 4 years has been a ratio of 2 warnings to every 1 summons.

The Division’s repeated commitment to a proactive approach to public safety, in addition to the enhancement of recreational boating activities, is also exemplified by officers conducting courtesy boat inspections during major holidays and water events. This Program has become one of the more effective outreach efforts put in place by the Division. These inspections are pre-launch checks of safety equipment and registrations intended to ensure the vessel operator is legal and the watercraft is safe before going on the water. They are conducted by officers and deputy officers, and provide another opportunity to deliver the safety message to the public.

Law Enforcement Source of Funds
Law Enforcement - Source of Funds Federal $2,915,235 18%
State $6,202,626 37%
Earmarked $4,561,353 27%
Restricted $2,957,565 18%

Law Enforcement (LE): LE FY 2009-10 – Highlights

The Division continued a joint alcohol enforcement program this year between the SCDPS, Highway Patrol and the SCDNR’s Law Enforcement Division utilizing mobile breath alcohol-testing vans (BAT-Mobiles). The use of this tool has had a tremendous and noticeable impact on the rate and efficiency of BUI enforcement by this team. The agencies produced a joint public service announcement/ campaign, the “100 Deadliest Days of Summer,” featuring both law enforcement entities’ efforts to reduce DUI and BUI violations on the highways and waterways of the state. Stepped up enforcement efforts begin on Memorial Day and run throughout the summer. During FY 2009-10, the SCDNR officers arrested 102 individuals for boating under the influence.

Continued outreach programs as part of an attempt to reach young sportsmen across the state. Three such popular outreach programs that continued to expand this past year included:

The National Archery in the Schools Program was active in 145 schools with approximately 14,000 students participating in the state during 2009.

The Take One Make One Program coordinated 44 youth hunts in 2009 with 170 youth and adults participating, and reached an additional 32,000 young people and adults through the shooting simulators and the Outdoor Heritage Trailer at local festivals and events throughout the state.

The Scholastic Clay Target Program had 1,306 students participate in shooting events in 2009.

In FY 2009-10, Agency officers identified and resolved a total of 35,656 violations of the law through the issuance of summonses and warning tickets. The issuance of summonses tickets was used to resolve 10,729 of the violations, or 31% of the total. Warning tickets were issued for the remaining 24,927 violations, or 69% of the total.

Comparison of Summonses to Warnings by Fiscal Year

In FY 2009-10, 14,635 students participated in the Department’s hunter education program. This represented a 59% increase over the previous year.

The Agency’s Boater Education Course is mandatory for boaters under the age of 16 who operate a watercraft powered by a 15 horsepower or larger motor without adult supervision. There are many other boaters who take the course in an effort to improve their knowledge of boating related issues even though they are not required to attend. The Division promotes boating safety courses and allows them to be taken online, as home study, or in a classroom. For FY 2009-10, the total number of students that participated in the SCDNR’s Boating Safety Program was 3,740. This includes students who took the course in a classroom (1,774), on the internet (1,720), and by video (246).