Zumalt to give briefing on anti-crime efforts

North Charleston Police Chief Jon Zumalt


North Charleston Police Chief Jon Zumalt tonight will brief City Council on advances made through the department's anti-crime efforts -- a crackdown that's helped limit the city's homicides to two this year.

One of the slayings involves several juveniles accused in the shooting death of a 17-year-old high school student on Bonds Avenue in February, while the other is the unsolved case of a 25-year-old man found shot near Meeting Street Road.

In the chief's first briefing of its kind, Zumalt will give council an analysis of North Charleston's crime trends through the last decade, highlighting what's worked and what remains to be done.

He said he has never given council such a public presentation before, and pegged the timing to the support he's received from the city's elected officials.

The address will cover where most of the crime is repeatedly occurring, the department's response techniques and "how we're trying to develop trust in the neighborhoods," he said. He expects his talk to last about 30 minutes.

North Charleston's violent crime rate has dropped by nearly one-third from 2006 numbers. Zumalt, who took over as chief in 2001, credits much of the reduction to increased attention to specific high-crime neighborhoods, including the use of traffic stops and officer saturations.

North Charleston had 55 killings in 2006 and 2007, while the number of killings fell to 11 in 2009.

Among the strategies Zumalt plans to highlight are:

--Altering patrolling schedules by putting more officers out during the identified peak crime hours, of 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

--Increased use of neighborhood resource officers and team patrols.

--More emphasis on heading off "retaliation" assaults or shootings by using clergy and mothers of homicide victims to tell their stories.

One of the more visible approaches has been the use of increased traffic stops. Some civil right advocates say the stops amount to racial profiling because black men in North Charleston are twice as likely to be stopped as their white counterparts, statistics show.

Mayor Keith Summey on Wednesday defended the chief and his strategies, saying the stops are aimed at bringing safety to neighborhoods where violence and other quality-of- life problems are the most severe. "We're profiling crime," Summey said. "We're not profiling race."

Zumalt's presentation will begin at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

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