Repeat offenders targeted by new bill

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A warning about dangerous criminals in our community was on the top of Mayor Joe Riley's State of the City address. Mayor Riley labeled repeat offenders as one of the Police Department's biggest targets in 2012 for good reason.

"They are the scum of the earth in my opinion," says Vanessa Halyard. "In my opinion they need to be behind bars."

Halyard lost her son in a shooting 14 years ago. The man who allegedly shot him had multiple crimes on his record before pulling the trigger of a semi-automatic in a club parking lot.

Since her son's death, Halyard has been a proponent of making it hard for people who commit serious crimes over and over again to see the light of day.

"If this fellah was not able to offend time and time again," says Halyard. "My child would still be alive today and living out his dreams."

A day after the Mayor's State of the City address, The City of Charleston police department is trying to make sure the tragedy the Halyard family went through doesn't happen to anyone else.

"Sense of urgency is the mantra for the police department," says police chief Greg Mullen. The Chief says repeat offenders are the department's number one priority in 2012.

"We continually believe that some of the biggest problems that we have are with repeat offenders," says Mullen. "People that are out of jail in the community on multiple bonds."

There is already a law for repeat offenders. It reads similar to the rules of a baseball game, three strikes and you're out.

The law currently applies to only a certain amount of the most serious crimes a person can commit and state lawmakers want to add more.

Assault with intent to kill, criminal domestic violence, and strong armed robbery are just half of the serious crimes lawmakers are suggesting to be added to the list.

If the new bill is passed, repeat offenders of those crimes who already carried a violent record would face 25 years to life on their third offense.

"This year we had three specific events in the city where we had multiple robberies that occurred involving the same individuals," says Mullen, pointing out the fact strong armed robbery should be included on the list.

Mullen says the City of Charleston police department has been working with lawmakers to make sure the law will protect the community as best it can from those that break the law most seriously and most often.

"They've been given enough opportunities to change their ways," says Halyard, who supports the proposed changes. "Everything added onto the list is a violent crime and they should not be out on the streets."
Chief Mullen is also trying to eliminate multiple bonds for people who commit violent crimes and limit the number of probation sentences that repeat offenders are given to make the streets of Charleston safer.

Copyright WCSC 2012. All rights reserved.