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North Charleston Police
Do you think that the North Charleston Police Department has taken appropriate steps towards reform a year after the Walter Scott shooting?

Police Must Attack Violent Crime, Says Ex-Cop
12/23/2014 3:19:20 PM

Ronald Hamilton
By Barney Blakeney

Every day the young Black man could be seen sitting on a bicycle outside the neighborhood store on Meeting Street in downtown Charleston. He is an illegal drug dealer known to both users and police. He also is known as a killer suspected of at least one murder.

Suspected killers live among us routinely. In criminal circles they are feared. To the law abiding, they often are seen as typical young men who are part of the criminal element in our communities, an element many in the Black community have come accept. More and more of these young men are surfacing as suspects for murder free on bond for other violent crimes.

I asked retired Charleston Police Dep. Chief Ronald Hamilton his thoughts about the murderers among us. Hamilton served 27 years with the Charleston Police Dept. before retiring as deputy chief in 2001. He served as a consultant to other police agencies until 2009.

The law requires sex offenders to register with local authorities so that the public is aware of who and where they are. But there are no such requirements for repeat offenders, he said. Those criminals remain in communities unknown to most residents.

Hamilton said communities, especially Black communities where there is a high concentration of crime, must hold legislators and police accountable. Legislators must draft laws that put violent criminals behind bars and keep them there, and police must develop strategies that not merely respond to crime, but prevents them, he said.

Criminals are encouraged by a system that returns them to the communities they victimize. Criminal activity is a business like any other, Hamilton said. When the system returns criminals to the streets, criminals return to the business they know. Instead of creating laws that make it more difficult for criminals to ply their trade, legislators have made it easier for the law abiding to arm themselves.

Hamilton said that’s a tactic that’s sure to backfire. The prevalence of illegal weapons account for much of the violence we experience in Black communities, now laws that make it legal to carry concealed weapons will compound that violence as more individuals become armed.

“Legal weapons and concealed carry permits is like giving someone a car and telling them not to drive it.

Eventually they’re going to use it. Firearms are more dangerous for our community than illegal drugs,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got to demand more of our legislators, police departments and officers,” he said.

In the wake of a recent spike in criminal activity in the Lincolnville area local police agencies - Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester County Sheriff offices along with North Charleston Police Dept., the S.C. Highway Patrol and the Al Cannon Detention Center - last week initiated a co-ordinated plan utilizing traffic check points and warrant sweeps that resulted in more than 15 arrests.

Hamilton said police agencies must become more aggressive in attacking crime.

“All the local police departments can show you a lot of arrest statistics. But we can’t arrest our way out of this,” he says. He thinks taking police officers out of cars and putting them onto foot patrols in communities is a strategy that may have more success. In the past people knew Porgy George, Harry B. and Charlie Temple. Now nobody knows the officers who patrol their communities.”

Taking officers out of cars and into communities have multiple impacts, Hamilton believes. The increased relationships that result lead to reduced crime, he says.

“Driving through neighborhoods responding to crime is not the answer. By the time we respond the crime already has occurred. We have to focus on prevention not arrests and solvability. Most police chiefs will tell you they don’t have the resources to do a lot of that. But I think the public is willing to give them the resources.”

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