Wednesday, June 4, 2014

A closer look at the bar district crime problem

In a single weekend, 26 percent of nighttime police incidents took place in proposed Overlay Zone

Posted by Paul Bowers on Wed, Jun 4, 2014 at 1:58 PM

How bad is the crime problem inside the proposed Entertainment District Overlay Zone? To get an idea, we looked at all of the incident reports from the Charleston Police Department in a single busy weekend. We chose May 30 to June 1, right in the thick of the Spoleto Festival.

Over the course of that single weekend's worth of nights ("nights" being defined as 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.), police reported a total of 82 incidents citywide. Of those nighttime incidents, 21 incidents (or about 26 percent) took place within the areas of King, Meeting, and Market streets that fall within the proposed overlay.

How serious a problem is that? You can be the judge, but start by considering the nature of the crimes: Of the 21 incidents in the proposed overlay, nine were for public intoxication, two involved disorderly conduct, and two involved consumption of alcohol by a minor. There was also an assault on a police officer, a car theft, a license plate theft, a missing purse, two people who got caught peeing in an alley together, and a guy who got busted drinking Four Loko on the sidewalk. These are the sorts of incidents that round out the Blotter every week. Fifteen of the 21 incidents took place after midnight.

It's also worth considering the nature of police enforcement. Consider the following arrest narrative:

On Sat. May 31 at about 1:20 a.m., a police officer was patrolling the area of King and George streets when he saw a woman "losing her balance multiple times while walking north on King Street with the help of a second female party guiding her," according to an incident report.

So, Woman A: drunk. Woman B: (at least reasonably) sober.

The officer approached the women, who explained that Woman A had called Woman B to walk her safely home. The cop asked Woman A where she lived, and she gave him the address. Not satisfied with this answer, the officer asked the woman to spell the name of her street, later writing in the report that she slurred her words and misspelled the street name several times.

The officer asked if either of the women had cash to pay for a cab, and they replied that they were going to walk instead. So the officer arrested Woman A on a public intoxication charge.

She was 10 blocks from home with a sober friend to hold her up. Is this a good reason to go to jail?

The City Paper reads through the crime reports every Monday, and in the past year, we can report that this type of arrest has taken place nearly every weekend. Belligerent drinkers and violent fistfights occasionally make the evening news, but many of the incidents on Upper King and the Market involve nothing more serious than walking while drunk.

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