Charleston police hybrid patrol working to make public places safer throughout city
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WCHS/WVAH) —
In Charleston, a new hybrid patrol has had a busy week conducting undercover stings in order to make public places in the city safer.
That’s just a small part of their efforts since the patrol formed just a few months ago.
This team of six police officers was formed to address the quality of life issues throughout the city and since September they've done that in several different ways, from clearing abandoned structures to making arrests to being a quick response in times of crisis.
For close to five months, hybrid patrol officers have been addressing crime in Charleston with a new approach.
"The hybrid patrols have made over 300 arrests, just themselves, and they've cleared over 100 abandoned structures just themselves,” Charleston Police Chief Steve Cooper.
The six officers are focused on the quality of life issues in the city, like what Pastor Paul Dunn experienced right outside of his church in downtown Charleston.
"We found just about a week ago we found 30 needles one day and then came back to find about 25 more needles outside,” Dunn said.
"Harassing children, harassing women, stealing and using hypodermic needles in the restrooms at the mall and local businesses,” Cooper said.
Cooper said all lot of these issues trace back to the vagrant criminal population.
"We get complaints of these individuals in basically all 26 square miles of Charleston,” Cooper said.
He said the number of complaints have skyrocketed, especially coming from popular public places like the Charleston Town Center.
In 2015, Charleston police received 129 complaints from the mall in both 2016 and 2017 that number has nearly tripled to 350.
In response to those complaints, 27 people were arrested at the Town Center and 10 others at the Capitol Market in undercover stings this week. Some are facing serious charges.
"One man had 20 active warrants another man had a warrant for terroristic threats,” Cooper said.
Cooper said these efforts are just the start to decreasing crime in the city.
"Really the whole Department is focusing on this problem and since the end of August nearly 1 quarter of the arrests are of the criminal vagrant population,”
"I appreciate the city stepping up the patrol to make people feel like the city is still a safe place to come and be able to walk and do your shopping and things like that,” Dunn said.
When many of these vagrant criminals are arrested they are given a second chance through the Family Reunification Program, which has helped more than 100 people make it home.