After 10 years on job, chief says violent crime down in N. Charleston

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - North Charleston's police chief said Thursday that the city's violent crime rate dropped dramatically in 2011.

Chief Jon Zumalt celebrated his 10th year on the job in December and said the crime rate has been dropping since 2007.

North Charleston was among the 10 most violent cities in the country when Zumalt came on board in 2001. He said since then, his department has seen lots of success in part because of his boss, Mayor Keith Summey.

"He's allowed me to do my job and he's allowed me to take risks, make mistakes, he's been patient," Zumalt said.

According to Zumalt, there were five murders reported in North Charleston in 2011, compared to 12 in 2010.

"Right now between 2007 and today we've had a 58 percent reduction in violence and we've had an 83 percent reduction in murders," he said. "That's one of the biggest drops anywhere in the country for violence reduction, it's incredible."

Even with all of his success, Zumalt also has seen controversy during his time as chief. In 2003, one of his officers shot and killed Asberry Wylder after Wylder stabbed the officer through his bulletproof vest with a screwdriver.

The incident sparked outrage in the black community and civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson led a march calling for Zumalt to resign. The chief stayed on and changes were made.

"We brought in tasers so our officers don't have to get that close to somebody that has a knife and a pick in their hand," Zumalt said.

In 2010, the chief fired half a dozen officers he said drank off duty and got into trouble.

"We've done some things to try to strengthen out shield, going forward," he said.

Among his goals for 2012, Zumalt wants to reduce the number of burglaries in North Charleston. He said there were 994 in the city in 2011, compared to 966 in 2010.

Copyright 2012 WCSC. All rights reserved.