Charleston police will increase their presence in Waterfront Park following an attack on two local college students who were beaten, robbed and tossed naked into the Cooper River, Mayor Joe Riley said.
Riley stressed that he still considers the park a very safe place and that police already patrol there on a regular basis. Surveillance camera footage showed a bike patrol officer passing through the park shortly after the holdup occurred Nov. 23. The camera, however, did not capture the two robbers who committed the crime, he said.
Riley said he sees no need to change the way the park operates and considers it unlikely the robbers will return.
"It is a very safe and beautiful place that is enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people every year," Riley said Thursday. "This event was newsworthy because it was so unusual."
Unusual, perhaps, but there has been some crime at the park over the years, including several armed robberies, two stabbings and thefts.
Nearly a dozen such incidents have been reported since the mid-1990s. Like the Nov. 23 holdup, most of these crimes have occurred at night or in the wee hours of the morning.
In the latest incident, two robbers reportedly approached a young couple sitting at the end of the pier around 1:15 a.m. After asking for the time, the strangers assaulted and robbed the couple, forced them to strip and tossed them into the river, according to a police report.
The male victim, a 20-year-old Trident Technical College student, and his 19-year-old girlfriend, who attends the College of Charleston, waited in the water until they were sure the robbers had left. Naked and covered in mud, they then walked to the Harbourview Inn on Vendue Range for help, police said.
Detectives still were investigating the case Thursday, and no arrests have been made, said Charles Francis, police public information officer. Officers who patrol the park will remain vigilant against potential problems, he said.
The incident occurred about an hour after the regular midnight closing of the park. A city ordinance requires that the park close at that time, but there are no gates to keep people out, Riley said. Police continue to patrol the area after the scheduled closing time, he said.
The main pathway through the park is illuminated by lights, but the pier is mostly dark at night. That was by design, Riley said, to allow visitors to enjoy the stars without interference from ambient light. There are no plans to change that, he said.
"It is a safe place and we are committed to keeping it safe," he said.
NOV. 23: Two local college students sitting on the pier at Waterfront Park report being beaten, robbed, forced to strip and then tossed naked into the Cooper River.
FEB. 14, 2008: Summerville couple robbed on the pier at Waterfront Park at night. Police capture two suspects, one of whom has a toy pistol.
SEPT. 19, 2005: Police stop two men seen putting on ski masks in Waterfront Park after dark. Police chief said his officers likely prevented a robbery.
AUG. 13, 2005: Man and his girlfriend robbed at gunpoint in the park at night. Two other people robbed nearby about 30 minutes later. In response, police increase patrols in park.
AUG. 12, 2003: Four men rob a Santee couple at gunpoint as they are leaving Waterfront Park early in the morning.
JULY 24, 2003: Three men rob a man at gunpoint as he walks his dog near the park's pineapple fountain at night. Police arrest three suspects after the holdup.
DEC. 22, 2000: A Summerville couple robbed at night in the park by two men. A man preparing to propose marriage intervenes and helps police nab the robbers.
APRIL 15, 2000: Five men rob two North Carolina residents sitting in a bench swing at the park early in the morning. The robbers grab one victim by the throat to get his money.
AUG. 5, 1998: Man reports being smashed in the head with a brick near a water fountain in the park at night.
MAY 12, 1998: A robber attacks a man sitting on a park swing early in the morning, stabbing him in the head at least three times before stealing his belongings.
DEC. 7, 1996: Police arrest 14-year-old boy for stabbing a man during an argument in the park.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556.