Charleston Police targeting underage drinking, drug use with new VICE Unit

The Charleston Police Department is working to implement an undercover VICE Unit that has been years in the making.
Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 5:00 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 13, 2023 at 6:34 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Charleston Police Department is working to implement an undercover VICE Unit that has been years in the making.

In addition to targeting underage drinking and illicit drug use, the unit will also focus on issues including fake IDs, gambling, prostitution, and human trafficking for college-aged adults, Sgt. Anthony Gibson said.

He said the department now has the resources needed to implement the unit. This week, the City of Charleston’s Public Safety Committee gave approval for the department to apply for the Ernest E. Kennedy Center AET grant, which will be used to fund ID-checking software and training for detectives.

“As the city has grown, so has the diversity of crimes,” Gibson said, “With the staffing, the reporting mechanisms, the training, and most importantly the funding opportunities, now we’re able to support having that unit.”

Crime often breeds more crime, and young adults under the influence are more likely to commit a “secondary” crime like getting in an altercation or stealing, he said.

“It’s hard to predict what their behavior is going to be if they’re under the influence, especially if they are underage,” Gibson said.

This unit is designed to prevent underage intoxication with the hope of stopping young adults from making life-changing decisions, he said.

“We are making life-altering decisions if we take someone into custody, so as far ahead of that as we can get, we’re able to make a difference,” Gibson said.

College of Charleston Freshman Susie Getty said she’s seen first-hand the effects underage drinking can have on decision-making.

“I’ve seen things in my dorm broken and messed up from people who, I’m assuming, were intoxicated,” Getty said.

Another freshman at the College of Charleston, Ella Sawyer, said she can understand how drugs and alcohol can lead to poor decision-making for young adults.

“When you’re intoxicated, you’re not all the way there, so you really don’t think through what you’re doing,” Sawyer said.

The VICE Unit will be an intelligence-led team consisting of two detectives and a sergeant. Gibson said the timeline is not immediately available, but the unit will be in full force depending on the upcoming funding and training schedule.