Last year was a difficult one for residents of Charleston’s East Side, which saw its second deadliest year in the past decade. Four were shot and killed there between June and September alone.
And it was also difficult for city officials who listened to residents and others voice their frustrations over this crime and other aspects of the city’s presence, or lack thereof, in their neighborhood.
But this new communication appears close to paying off, and the city should be commended for reacting in a positive way.
Obviously, its police department has played a lead role and has led the city’s response. Recently, it arrested 15 suspected street-level drug dealers after a month-long investigation. The department also has plans to try to prevent the dealers’ return by deploying more officers on bikes and on foot.
“In the past, we’ve done sweeps (and) we’ve put additional officers in the area,” Capt. Dustin Thompson recently told reporter Gregory Yee. “Obviously, it hasn’t worked because we’re doing another sweep. We’ve got plans for 2020. It’s a multifaceted approach.”
But the city’s response has gone further: It also has plans to add more public garbage cans, more anti-litter measures and routine street sweeping each month. It also may restrict on-street parking once a month, as has been done in other neighborhoods, to ensure street sweeping is more effective.
Police are testing the “Slack” app to see if it could be a useful tool in letting residents report crime and will notify landlords of certain incidents involving their tenants. City staff are making a point of attending regular neighborhood meetings.
The city is working on an employment initiative for neighborhood teens this summer, and the city’s Parks Department is replacing street lights and buying new playground equipment. And there’s more, such as compiling a directory of the 60 existing East Side businesses.
Mike Whack, the mayor’s special assistant for quality of life and community outreach, noted these ongoing initiatives came out of a listening session held last September at Second Presbyterian Church. “There is a light on all the time, everybody’s getting less sleep in the interest of making a difference on the East Side,” Mr. Whack said.
This work is important because many residents were understandably traumatized by last year’s crime spike. While the city can’t change that reality, it can ensure that it does what it can to hear out residents and respond to their thoughts about what would make their neighborhood a more livable place.