North Charleston has been successfully reducing crime but now needs to make stronger efforts targeting young people as a means of heading off severe crimes later, Police Chief Jon Zumalt said.

"How do we stop that next group?" he asked.

In an address to City Council on Thursday, Zumalt said the strategies of blanketing the city's most violent neighbors with officers has paid measurable dividends.

For instance, in 2006 when North Charleston was labeled one of the seven most violent cities in America, 236 people were shot in the city, 28 of whom died.

"That was a horrific year," he said.

But violence has dropped significantly because of strategies that include heading off retaliatory shootings, instituting saturation patrols, building community trust and increasing traffic stops, he said.

In 2009, there were 118 shootings, with 11 being fatal, Zumalt said.

Crimes are trending downward, "and that is very good news for North Charleston," he said.

Zumalt, though, stressed that more needs to be done to steer juveniles from elementary to high school ages away from getting sucked into the world of crime.

Resource officers are already in the city's schools, but more connections need to be made with young people and their families, he said, adding that it can work wonders toward heading them off from becoming a crime statistic.

"If we can be effective turning young people away from poor behaviors and getting them more involved in positive behavior, we can influence future crime," Zumalt said after the session.

Even alternatives to sending an offender directly to the juvenile justice system should be pursued, he said.

Council members gave high marks for the chief's strategies and achievements. Councilman Michael Brown, who represents part of the city's south end, said one of the more noticeable trends is the increase in trust and communication between police and residents.

"That's a part that wasn't there before," he said.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551 or skropf@postandcourier.com.