A pack of unruly teenagers who went on a rampage in downtown Charleston early Sunday morning, attacking and injuring some people, illuminated a problem:
If the Charleston Police Department had difficulty managing dozens of young people running wild, how would it manage a throng of adults bent on higher criminal stakes?
Department spokesman Charles Francis said officers were dispatched to 11 calls about disturbances on the peninsula from around midnight to 2 a.m. Sunday. He said they didn’t take some reports until two days later because they needed to respond to other calls.
One man who would not give his name for fear the group might retaliate, said he was struck twice in the face. But when a policeman responded to the call, after asking if the man needed help, the officer said he was busy and left without taking a report.
Meanwhile, Mr. Francis said, other officers were in the area to prevent additional incidents. Police ended up writing reports on three assaults, a purse snatching and a robbery.
Fortunately, what happened early Sunday morning was not the norm for the Radcliffeborough neighborhood.
One Warren Street resident, who reported that a girl threatened to beat her with a belt and whose phone was knocked from her hand, said it had been about two years since college-aged people caused trouble in her neighborhood as they left downtown bars. Police patrols have helped prevent that problem.
So it should not be necessary to have a dozen officers on patrol in that neighborhood on a routine night.
But the department should have enough backup officers available to respond in such an unusual circumstance.
The teenagers were clearly easy to see and hear, and reports came from a fairly small area. Yet only one arrest was made.
A group of teenagers screaming in the streets is one thing. But when those teens assaulted people, damaged property, robbed someone and snatched a purse, the situation called for fast and thorough police action. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.
City police should continue to pursue these teens and hold them accountable for their actions.
The ruckus started after a birthday party at the Cannon Street YWCA ended at 12:30 a.m. One victim was at the party — a boy who told police on Monday that he had been threatened, robbed, thrown to the ground, kicked and punched. Teens reportedly left the YWCA in groups.
Radcliffeborough residents can be pleased that their neighborhood is generally safe. But they — and all Charleston residents — need to feel assured that law enforcement can respond as needed when things go bad.