Decline in Homicides Requires Reaction from Police and Communities

By Barney Blakeney

Asked how many homicides have occurred in North Charleston to date this year, North Charleston Police Spokesman Spencer Pryor said there have been four homicides in the city as of April 19. He cautioned about being jinxed. In the same time frame during 2018, there had been six homicides and one justified homicide in the city. There have been three homicides in Charleston so far this year. Seven of Charleston County’s 10 homicides in 2019 have been committed in North Charleston and Charleston.

After being named North Charleston Police Chief Reggie Burgess, the city’s ninth police chief and first Black police chief promised to work as a change agent. In 2016, North Charleston ranked as the nation’s leading city for murders per capita 1,000 populations. According to one source in the first half of 2016, North Charleston recorded a steadier rate of homicides than New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. By May 30, 2016 there had been 14 homicides in North Charleston. The city ended the year with 32 homicides. In 2017, the city experienced an unprecedented 35 homicides. Last year there were 25 homicides in the city.

The City of Charleston, the county’s largest municipality, in recent years consistently trailed North Charleston in the number of homicides committed. As Charleston police investigated the city’s eighth homicide in July 2018, Police Chief Luther Reynolds who took the helm the previous April said guns are too accessible and that most killings aren’t random. In most of the city’s homicides the victims knew their killers, he said. But plugging the dam that leads to the flood of homicides isn’t just a question of how much more police must do, but also how much more communities must do, Reynolds said.

When residents of the Waylyn-Dorchester Terrace Neighborhood Association in 2016 held a community meeting to address the violence, fewer than 20 people attended. None of the city’s council members attended. Former Chicora Cherokee Neighborhood Association President AJ Davis said, “Young men are killed and community leaders hold meetings that only a few people attend. The process is repeated over and over again each time a community gets frustrated by another murder. Our communities are having conversations about stopping the violence, but the conversations aren’t saving lives.”

In a January 2017 interview Black Lives Matter-Charleston Coordinator Muhiyyidin D’baha, who February 5, 2018 became a victim of fatal gun violence said, “We are well overdue for a cooperative effort to end the rash of homicides that largely affect our community of color. And there is no indication that it will stop. We are hurting. The bleeding must stop. Who do we hold accountable? Who is responsible? Everyone can react, get overwhelmed, and lash out at each other for not doing enough. But where are those that can respond to the pain, confusion, desperation, and conflicts that our youth are finding themselves in?”

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