Police to increase presence in downtown Charleston following recent murders

Updated: Jul. 22, 2020 at 7:17 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds says three murders in one week is “significant” and the law enforcement presence will increase starting Thursday as an enhancement to the city’s policing efforts.

"We've had some other things that we've been working on all along, in the entire city and all areas of the city," Reynolds said. "We've never stopped policing we've never stopped our strategies we've never stopped our presence and our push to make arrests and investigate crimes."

Charleston Police, Charleston County deputies and state law enforcement will be focused on crime reduction on the peninsula. That will include throughout the area and in areas where recent violence has taken place.

A man was fatally shot in downtown Charleston last Friday during an attempted robbery.

The Saturday before that two teens died following a shooting in West Ashley. That same weekend there were at least two other shootings in the city.

Reynolds say there are people who are nervous about the crime and have asked police for their presence.

"It's something that people really need to see that we have all hands on deck that we're paying attention to we care and we're out there with the community," Reynolds said. "This is not some push for militarization there's a lot of people that are really upset."

Law enforcement efforts will include traffic checkpoints, increased presence of police equipment for community awareness, pop-up events and more.

Reynolds says at checkpoints they're finding illegal guns and people who are wanted for crimes. He says getting people who are driving under the influence off the street is also a big priority.

He says law enforcement will also be interacting with businesses, playing basketball with youth and patrolling in neighborhoods including high-crime areas.

"We're going to do what we always do and that is work side by side in conjunction with our communities we want to essentially hold hands with our community partners to collaborate and I call it relational policing," Reynolds said.

There is no set timeline on how long the increase law enforcement presence will last, but Charleston Police officials say they have a commitment from Charleston County and state law enforcement to assist for a couple of weeks.

Reynolds is also reminding people to secure their firearms. The Charleston Police Department says 77 firearms have been reported as stolen from vehicles and 41 came from unlocked vehicles.

The police department says as part of their efforts they have activated the SWAT team and combined special units to patrol communities as well.

South Carolina American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Frank Knaack released the following statement, saying, in part:

“We know what happens when police go down this road, it’s not new. All this will do is further criminalize Black and poor people. For example, while research shows that Black and white people use marijuana at roughly the same rate, Black people are 4.2 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession in Charleston County.

This police escalation comes nearly two months after Charleston area law enforcement departments participated in mass police violence on May 31 in Marion Square, deploying potentially lethal weapons against people peacefully protesting for racial justice and against police violence. And, later that night area law enforcement continued their violence against Eastside community members. Yet, the Charleston Police department and Charleston County Sheriff’s Office continue to ignore community calls for an apology and investigation into their officers’ actions.”

Charleston Police say they used crowd control munitions like tear gas and pepper balls to disperse crowds during that time.

“Some people think we’re going to be busting heads and we’re going to be going out and doing things that are really going to harm people and harm communities and harm trust,” Reynolds said. “When I say we’re going to be proactive I mean we’re just going to be out in the communities we’re actually going to be building relationships, building partnerships, working with anybody in the community that needs us.”

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