To Maggie Kilgore, the community's response to a recent double-homicide and a rash of break-ins in West Ashley should go deeper than residents being more vigilant and locking their doors.
Kilgore, a former teacher, on Monday spoke at a town hall held by police and city leaders at West Ashley High School and urged fellow residents to reach out to youth who are likely to get caught up in such crimes.
A 15-year-old and a 17-year-old shot and killed during an argument on the basketball court at Ashley Oaks Apartments on July 15 were Kilgore's former students at West Ashley Advanced Studies Magnet. She came to Monday's town hall after attending the funeral for one of the victims. She said she wanted to remind the more than 100 people in attendance that children in the area desperately need mentors.
"It's not just about the crimes and the break-ins," said Kilgore, who also told the crowd that she understood residents' concerns about burglaries. "It's also about these kids needing guidance, and they're not getting it."
For almost two hours, Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds and several officers assigned to the area fielded residents' questions in the wake of the killings and a rash of break-ins to cars and homes in subdivisions such as Shadowmoss.
Several of those who spoke said their cars had been broken into and asked for tips to ward off thieves. One man voiced concerns about criminals targeting occupied homes at night after six residences in Shadowmoss were burglarized while residents slept on July 12. A 13-year-old boy has since been arrested in connection with those break-ins.
Reynolds referred to thefts from cars as crimes of opportunity that he said are "in large part preventable" if residents remove their valuables from their vehicles.
He told people to not leave guns in unsecured vehicles, reiterating a message that he and other city leaders expressed at a press conference about the double-homicide last week. In that case, investigators determined that one of the guns found at the scene had been reported stolen from an unlocked car in the apartment complex.
"Believe it or not, people need to hear that message because people are doing it on a regular basis," he said.
Lt. Tony Cretella, who oversees a team of officers in West Ashley, told the crowd that despite the burglaries over the last several weeks, property crime in West Ashley is down 7 percent from this time last year. Violent crime has fallen more than 27 percent.
"Please don’t get scared and think that there’s this huge epidemic, because there's not," he said.
Several residents asked Reynolds about police response times and called for more officers assigned to West Ashley. They said it seems the majority of resources are dedicated to Charleston's peninsula, a perception that Reynolds said is "not totally accurate."
Reynolds said the department is struggling to fill open positions. He spoke about plans to dedicate more officers to focus solely on traffic, which he said would help free up patrol officers for residents' calls.
"We’re doing the best we can with what we have," Reynolds said.