One year later, police say changes to King Street nightlife have paid off
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston Police Department has called the weekend changes to King Street a success.
In the first six months since the changes were implemented last May, Lt. James Byrne says arrests are up and crime is down.
“We’ve seen an 18% reduction in simple assaults. We’ve seen a 52% reduction in aggravated assaults. We’ve seen a 60% reduction in sex offenses, we have had 58% increase in disorderly conduct and a 254% increase in drug cases,” Byrne said, adding they also seized 40 firearms during the first six months of the changes.
An increase in disorderly conduct and drug cases may sound like a negative statistic, but Byrne says the increase means they’re catching criminals, not just pushing criminal activity to other areas of the city.
“What that says to me is we are putting the officers in the right places,” Byrne said. “Those drugs, disorderly conduct acts and firearms were there but we didn’t have the resources prior to this plan to address them adequately.”
The decrease in crime is a welcome change for businesses caught in the middle of the traffic changes. Monica Guyton is the assistant general manager at John King Grill and Bar. She says she has noticed a more responsive police force Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays when the changes are in place.
“We have already had a couple of incidents in the last two or three weeks where, as security is putting them [patrons] out, they’re immediately being addressed on the street by the police because they’re right around the corner,” Guyton said. “They can actually see the altercation happening and see our security put somebody out and it allows them to be on top of it a lot faster than, say, like on a Wednesday.”
Safety is the number one concern for managers like Guyton trying to run a business, but a close second is a welcoming environment that encourages people, especially tourists, to spend money. That’s not the feeling visitors get when they see the orange-white barricades and the mobile floodlights that illuminate King Street on the weekend.
“The first time I saw them, I thought they were doing construction. . . it looks as though they are doing roadwork in that area,” Guyton said. “For comparison’s sake, during Atlantic Bike week in Myrtle, they have the metal barricades and they’re a little bit shorter . . . and it looks more like a road closure. That would be my only suggestion - make it slightly more appealing.”
Byrne says they know it’s not the best setup right now, but they do plan to continue the King Street changes for the foreseeable future.
“Right now, it’s in kind of a rough form and we know that. The barricades that we put up, the cones that we put out are not the most attractive things in the world,” Byrne said. “We are looking at some lighting options so it won’t look so much like a construction zone.”
Byrne says they are looking for grant opportunities to fund more attractive barricades as well.
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