by John Steinberger | July 24, 2018 11:31 am
Nearly 200 West Ashley residents gathered into the West Ashley High School auditorium Monday night to get a briefing from Charleston Police Department leaders and provide feedback on a recent uptick in crime in the area. In the early hours of July 12, six homes in Shadowmoss Plantation were broken into. Three days later, two minors were murdered at Ashley Oaks apartments on Ashley Hall Plantation Road. Lieutenant Tony Cretella, who leads the 78 officers who serve Team 4 in West Ashley said that despite the recent incidents, property crimes in the area have declined 7.7% during the past year and violent crimes have dropped at a 27% rate. Team 4 serves about 72,000 West Ashley residents from The Crescent to Village Green.
Cretella told the residents that more emphasis is being placed on community policing. Patrolmen are going door to door in neighborhoods and asking residents what their concerns are. He has assigned four officers to patrol the West Ashley Bikeway and Greenway part-time, and they have already made 732 personal contacts. Officers are also greeting residents along the Bees Ferry Road pedestrian paths and sidewalks. Cretella said that there will also be increased emphasis on traffic enforcement and encouraged residents to share their concerns by calling the Team 4 office at 843-766-3908.
The most frequent crime category in the Team 4 area is theft from motor vehicles. Cretella said that the crime was reported 153 times from January 1 to June 17 this year and that 80% of the theft cases occurred in unlocked cars. Also, 52 hand guns were stolen from the unlocked cars, as well as many valuable items. He described them as “crimes of opportunity” and advised people to always lock their cars and never leave firearms or valuables in plain sight.
Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds, who was named to the job in March following a 30-year career in the Montgomery County (MD) Police Department, pledged to make an increased effort to develop trust in low-income West Ashley communities like Ashley Oaks. He mentioned the role coaches, pastors and mentors played in his teen years and said the community needs to step up in these communities “and do things a little bit better” to reach out to troubled teens. Former West Ashley Advanced Studies Magnet school teacher Maggie Kilgore, who taught both of the teens murdered at Ashley Oaks, says that police alone can’t solve the problem. She said the teens need more opportunities in sports, extra-curricular activities and apprenticeships and that schools need to provide better counseling services for at-risk youth. Kilgore said teens need more mentors and guidance from the community.
Another resource available to low-income minority communities is the non-profit Charleston Illumination Project. Headed by West Ashley resident Dr. Keylon Middleton, the group will place more emphasis on building better citizen-police relationships in West Ashley. Middleton plans to hold a listening session at the Ashley Oaks community in the near future.
Shortly after the break-ins, Shadowmoss residents formed a neighborhood watch group to patrol the neighborhood and talk to neighbors. Charleston City Councilman Harry Griffin screens the volunteers and issues them orange vests. Those who wish to participate should contact him at GriffinH@Charleston-SC.gov. His colleague Kevin Shealy, whose city council district includes neighborhoods along Glenn McConnell Parkway, is organizing similar volunteer groups. He said the recent crime spree has gotten neighbors to talk to each other more than they did before. Griffin pledged to schedule further crime awareness forums at Citadel Mall and other West Ashley sites.
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