Charleston police chief addresses crime numbers, ups and down

Updated: Mar. 12, 2020 at 7:00 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston police Chief Luther Reynolds says he talks about crime stats weekly with his command staff, plus in community meetings and with faith leaders.

"To me that's the exciting part about being in this profession is we can make a difference. We can make an impact. People are relying on us to keep them safe," he said.

They use data about crimes to help figure out effective assignments for officers.

"Putting police officers in the right places, the right time, with the right strategies has a really significant impact."

As part of the Police Data Initiative, the City's effort to be transparent about crime, CPD reports statistics regularly.

We talked to the Chief about the year-over-year crime statistics from 2018 to 2019.

The department's data showed violent crimes overall were up 12.3%.

Reports of aggravated assaults, for example, went from 206 to 254, a 23% increase.

On the other hand, sex offenses like forcible rape decreased 21% from 46 to 36.

The Chief said looking at data is "relevant, but you can't make a lot of conclusions when crime goes up a little bit or down. We can't just celebrate. We really have to constantly be vigilant."

Non-violent crimes were up 15.3 % overall.

Thefts of cars and from cars are both up.

But burglaries and breaking and entering reports were down 18%.

Also down? Drug and weapons violations, from more than 1,600 in 2018 to 1,300 in 2019.

"Crime numbers here are relatively low. For all the visitors we have - we have 7 million visitors a year - we have one of the busiest ports in the country that's getting busier every day. We have so many special events and activities. For a population our size, we have a very safe city. It's important when you look at the numbers to recognize that," Reynolds said.

They can always do better, he said. In fact he'd like to see higher numbers reported when it comes to domestic violence.

"The more we talk about it and educate people, we actually hope people report it more because often times it's under-reported," Reynolds explained.

He's also concerned about guns stolen from vehicles, which has been a hot topic in local law enforcement for the last several years.

In Charleston, at least 133 guns were stolen from cars in 2018 . There were even more reports - 177- last year.

More than half of those were from unlocked vehicles.

"I'm pro-second amendment. I'm pro-gun. But I'm pro responsible gun ownership," Reynolds said. "That's not responsible. When somebody steals a gun out of a car, we put a gun in a criminal's hand in our community."

He says data in many cities indicates a connection between more stolen guns and more shootings.

That, he said, means that stopping that preventable crime is a way to reduce other crimes.

Chief Reynolds says his officers are working with neighborhoods and faith activists to spread the word.

“I’m really optimistic about 2020 and making things better than they are,” he said.

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