Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen: Violent crime has decreased

Greg Mullen

Violent crime in Charleston is down 50 percent over the past three years, Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen reported Tuesday.

He wasn't taking credit for the decrease.

Mullen said the men and women of the police department should get the lion's share of the credit.

"They are out there every day, working hard," Mullen said. The officers are meeting people, being visible, building relationships, he said.

"If it had not been for the actions of the officers, we would not be able to accomplish what we're doing."

Surrounded by representatives of neighborhood associations, civilian volunteers, police officers and Mayor Joe Riley, the chief stood at a podium at police headquarters and gave a preview of the "state of the department" speech he was to deliver at a City Council meeting hours later.

In 2007, when he gave his first such report, Mullen promised to increase community involvement in the fight against crime, to beef up training for new police officers, to improve the department's use of technology.

The chief was pleased to report progress on all of those fronts, and more:

--Since 2008, he said, nearly 100 civilian volunteers have served the department. With programs such as Camp Hope, Midnight Basketball, Poetry Slams and other programs targeting the city's youth, hundreds of the city's children have learned to see police officers as their friends, he said.

--The department also has increased cooperation with college students and helped organize a free shuttle service that has provided more than 63,000 rides to college students.

--The department added a full-time recruiter in 2009 and has been working to attract highly qualified candidates to the police force, Mullen said. And the amount of training each new officer receives has increased.

--In 2011, the department added a six-week pre-academy course for new recruits. The course offers information and training that is not currently provided by the state academy, Mullen said. "With the six-week pre-academy, an expanded 12 weeks at the academy, and then 15 weeks of supervised training when they get back, the candidates have 33 weeks of training prior to independent duty," he said.

Mullen acknowledged that the changes and reforms in the department are not without cost and he said the department has sharpened its skills in applying for law enforcement grants:

--"Since 2008, the department has received $6,400,000 in grant funding to support these transformation efforts," he said. In the works are seven additional grant applications which, if approved, will bring an additional $4,800,000 funding into the department, he said.

--A $3 million federal COPS grant in 2009, enabled the department to hire 19 additional officers and a full-time recruiter, he said.

The department has also improved its use of technology:

--Outdated computer systems were replaced and computers were installed in vehicles so officers can do reports in the field.

--In 2010, the city joined the county's radio system, which has resulted in improved and more reliable communications, he said.

Overall, Mullen said he is pleased with the changes and is proud of the direction in which he has moved the department, he said.

"While we still have struggles and we still have challenges we feel very proud of the accomplishments we have made," Mullen said.

Riley said the city's police department is on the cutting edge. He said he is proud of what the department has accomplished and he sees it as a model for other cities.

"It's the most important responsibility that we have in government, to make our neighborhoods and our communities safe," Riley said. "Then freedom can fully flower."