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Charleston Murder Rate Decreasing, Reaches Record Low

Reported by: Send eMail Kallie Cart
Web Producer: Heath Harrison
Reported: Dec. 18, 2013 5:57 PM EST
Updated: Dec. 18, 2013 11:09 PM EST


One Murder in 2013
Eyewitness News Photo

Charleston , Kanawha County , West Virginia

New numbers are out on crime in the capital city, and Charleston is on pace for a record low number of murders.

There are still two weeks left in 2013, but, so far this year, there has been only one murder.

Eyewitness News took a look at what's behind the positive trend.

The Rev. James Ealy has been working on Charleston's West Side for 16 years, one of many leading the charge to make the streets safer, and the hard work may finally be paying off.

“Are we making strides in the right direction?” Ealy said. “Absolutely, absolutely.”

“I've never seen such a low number when it comes to murders in Charleston," Lt. Steve Cooper, chief of detectives in Charleston said.

There has been just one murder in 2013, the lowest number in at least 20 years.

That shooting took place in February, when a dad was killed in his home on Red Oak Street by a man believed to be angry because the victim had reported alleged child abuse to police. The shooter then killed himself.

And while police say even one life lost is too many, it's a far cry from the past.

In 2011, there were 12 murders in the capital city. In 2012, there were six.

Police said while murders are hard to predict and prevent, they're attributing the decline to more community involvement, more police patrols in historically high crime areas and the federal drug market intervention, where federal prosecutors and Charleston police identified an "A List” of dangerous drug dealers and got them off the streets.

"Those guys have a long history of violence and with them being locked up it stands to reason that there are fewer shootings," Lt. Cooper said.

As part of the DMI, there's also a "B List” of lower level drug offenders who have been offered a second chance to leave their life of crime and become productive members of the community.

Ealy is among several people involved in the intervention

“They're excited to get away from it,” he said.

Police said the new, growing concern they are now facing is heroin use and heroin overdoses. They believe the heroin use is what has led to a spike in thefts in Charleston.

The year is winding to a close, with just two weeks left, and so far in Charleston, there has only been one murder.

Police said they have never seen anything like it, and it is a record low.

In 2012, there were six murders.

In 2011, there were 12, so the rate has been decreasing.
Other violent crimes have stayed steady.

That single murder happened very early in the year in February, a murder-suicide on Red Oak Street.

Charleston police said murders are sometimes cyclical, and often hard to prevent and predict, but there have been several new initiatives to curb crime in the capital city this year.

Several community groups have been meeting with police. There are increased patrols in historically dangerous areas, and the drug market intervention program on the West Side is taking off. That's where Charleston police have teamed up with federal prosecutors, targeting dangerous offenders. They have been locked up on federal charges and a second group has received intervention, education and a second chance.

The Rev. James Ealey said he has seen a change on the West Side.

“This really is a great place to be, and we don't have near the issues,” he said. “We still have issues but we don't have all the murders and the things that used to be.”

Police said they have seen a spike in heroin use and heroin overdoses, and that has led to an increase in theft cases.

But, so far in 2013, Charleston has only had one murder.

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