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Gilbreth column: City residents facing unpleasant realities

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Two City of Charleston Police Department officers stand at the corner of King and Ann Street Saturday night July 25, 2020, in Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

Here’s an interesting old word puzzle I came across (without the solution, but I think we can figure it out):

A dozen letters form a noun

Which has to do with food in town

Three-fourths of the word, urban or rural,

Means fine and light, here in the plural

The last three letters rhyme with hen,

But in Japan — not worth a yen.

Back to the present

OK, back to reality, and what a reality to come back to after a very relaxing two-week vacation, a reality that includes worsening Covid-19 incidence reports and death rates, ongoing protests, a general sense of increasing lawlessness and sadly the fatal shooting of Tom DiLorenzo — the husband of Suzanne Austin who is the CofC’s new Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs — during a robbery gone bad around 6 a.m. July 17.

Three juveniles have been detained and the Solicitor’s Office is expected to decide sometime next month whether to request they be tried as adults. In the meantime, many unanswered questions remain — such as why the odd hour for such a thing to have taken place?

While the shooting initially was described as an “anomaly,” by the city’s police chief, The Post and Courier’s Mikaela Porter reported in a weekend article that the Police Department, Sheriff’s Office and State Law Enforcement Division stepped up patrols across the city a few days after the shooting. The article stated that the intent is “to provide a greater show of force in the city and to tamp down crime.”

Get a weekly recap of South Carolina opinion and analysis from The Post and Courier in your inbox on Monday evenings.

That article also detailed the hiring — on a trial basis — of a national security firm by the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association (CNA) prior to the shooting to combat a worrying increase in minor crimes that had been on the rise for a number of months. A gentleman I know who lives downtown reports that he and several of his friends and neighbors also have installed Ring doorbell security cameras. Images can be connected to WiFi and shared along with comments with others who subscribe to the same service.

There apparently has been a steady stream of reports — prior to the past few months of street unrest — that document robberies ranging from car and motorcycle thefts from driveways to bicycle theft from almost everywhere, along with stolen porch furniture and packages that had been delivered to doorsteps. 

This same gentleman says he was shocked to learn that there were more police retirements last year than new hires. The neighborhood group’s decision to hire the private security firm is reported to have previously discussed with police officials months ago and had their blessing.

But there also is a sense of escalating unease. A friend and neighbor of mine suffered an attempted break-in recently following one of several protests down at the Battery (or White Point Garden, if you prefer), which dovetails with what a couple I know experienced while walking their dog at the Battery one recent Sunday morning. They were standing by the bandstand talking to a friend who was also walking his dog when a man stopped and began ranting, shouting obscenities, calling them racists, telling them to get the eff out of there and that they were going to die of Covid because they were old.

After hearing of the above, a lady I know who lives on the peninsula got a somewhat eerily coincidental call from a dear friend who happens to live in Mount Pleasant.

“Y’all need to move over here,” said the friend. “It’s a lot safer.”

It is encouraging that the authorities seem to be getting the message as evidenced by the heavier police presence, particularly at The Battery. Citizens should further expect outdoor roll calls being held throughout the City, an increased presence of police equipment deployed for community awareness, pop-up CPD events and traffic checkpoints.

It’s very shocking and sad that all this has so suddenly become a reality as a result of political and philosophical movements that should ideally challenge the status quo with either peaceful (or legal) exchanges of ideas and/or through the impact of properly held elections.

Right answer?

OK, let’s slip back away from some of these unpleasant realities for a moment and try to solve that world puzzle. The best I can tell the answer must be “delicatessen,” right?

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