Some residents on the north end of the Charleston peninsula are worried about police pursuits from other areas spilling into their neighborhoods.
The topic is one of many that could come up at the Charleston City Council Public Safety Committee meeting at 5 p.m. Monday.
This summer, at least two chases that began in North Charleston have ended with injury-causing crashes on King and Meeting streets. In the past, other chases have come to an abrupt halt on Rutledge Avenue after coming off Exit 219-A from eastbound Interstate 26.
"Some of my older constituents are really concerned about it," said Councilman Jimmy Gallant, who chairs the safety committee and represents the northern peninsula. "That seems to be the exit of preference when they're coming off the interstate and into the downtown area."
Many police officers are reluctant to give up on chases because they don't want to let the "bad guys" get away. They also point out that they don't choose where the chase leads them, the person they're pursuing does.
Each year, police pursuits claim hundreds of lives across the nation. None of the recent chase-related wrecks on the Charleston peninsula have been fatal, though some have been serious enough to sow fears in some minds.
One chase started early Aug. 9 on Rivers Avenue, as a North Charleston officer was looking for suspicious activity related to business robberies, a report states. A car made evasive maneuver to avoid the officer and ended up on the interstate. The pursuit reached speeds up to 70 mph on the Meeting Street extension and ended with a wreck on King Street, sending one man to the hospital.
Another car pursued by North Charleston police on July 11 collided with a car at Huger and Meeting streets, injuring four people. The pursuit already had been called off when the crash occurred and the cruisers were following at a distance, police said.
The large law enforcements agencies in Charleston County have pursuit policies. Many include similar features, such as making sure the severity of the crime warrants a chase at high speed. Other considerations are weather, traffic conditions, time of day and the likelihood of finding the person later.
The city of Charleston adopted one of the strictest policies in the state two years ago, though it has no effect on chases from other jurisdictions that cross into the city.
The change came after a college student was critically injured in a collision with a fleeing carjacking suspect. Since then, officers have to get permission from a supervisor before rather than during a high-speed pursuit. Chases are limited to violent felonies such as murder, kidnapping, robbery and rape.
That policy, along with all others the department uses, has been placed under review since Chief Greg Mullen assumed control of the department last year, spokesman Charles Francis said.
Mount Pleasant also requires officers to get a supervisor's permission before pursuit. The department also bars pursuits for minor offenses.
Charleston County sheriff's deputies have more leeway on when they can start a pursuit and why.
"We allow it," spokesman Maj. John Clark said. "It's officer discretion, but the supervisor has the right to terminate at any time."
Like the sheriff's office, North Charleston police officers can initiate a pursuit with the supervisor able to call it off at any time.