By Nadine Parks Of The Post And Courier
(CHARLESTON, S.C.) -- She brought down a local theft ring and recovered more than $ 2 million in construction equipment.
Now Detective Candy Johnson's work has earned her a title. The Knights of Columbus recently named her North Charleston's 2000 Police Officer of the Year.
Though she's been in the detective division for less than two years, her supervisors already herald her as an effective investigator with the ability to expose criminal activity at the highest levels.
Johnson, a former North Charleston firefighter, joined the city police department in 1996. When she was assigned as an investigator of vehicle thefts in 1999, a group of thieves already were working her territory.
"They would find these backhoes where they had construction sites, and they would go there at night and bring one of their rigs and load it up on there," Johnson said. "And then they would go and hide it, and then they would sell it."
By the beginning of 2000, more than $ 2 million in heavy construction equipment was missing throughout the tri-county area.
Johnson launched and coordinated a task force of investigators from the Berkeley and Charleston county sheriffs' offices, the FBI and the State Law Enforcement Division.
"It was way bigger than me," the detective said. "It was going across city lines and county borders, and I needed help."
After working with a confidential informant and many hours of undercover and surveillance work, the theft ring came to an end with the arrest of four suspects. Then men are awaiting trial.
Of about 20 stolen vehicles, all but two backhoes were returned to their owners.
"It was a real good investigation," said North Charleston Police Maj. Arthur Smalls. "She worked diligently and hard, day and night."
Johnson was a city firefighter for six years. She said the change of career was an adjustment, but she's taken well to the new job.
She was named the department's Police Officer of the Month once in 1997 and again in 1998.
Said Johnson: "I've kind of been making my mark."