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Charleston Police Stepping Up Downtown Patrols

Reported: May. 7, 2014 11:58 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Stefano DiPietrantonio) - Charleston Police are cracking down on crime downtown, especially on Capitol Street.

There have been several incidents. On April 26, bouncer Jimmy Beasley was shot 12 times while walking two women to their car. In January 2013, Kevin Clemmens, 18, was stabbed outside of Impulse night club.

Eight months later, Sebastian Williams, 26, was stabbed outside Sky Lounge. Those are just a few of the violent crimes in that busy bar area, but now, new foot patrols are coming.

The patrols are already in-place, but officers have been in their cars more. Now, you'll notice a change if you come down that way. Officers will be out of their cars, on foot and watching for trouble.

It’s a shift in strategy and a simple way to ramp-up safety in Charleston's bar district on busy nights.

"Getting out of the car, getting out on foot," L.t Preston Hickman with the Charleston Police Department said.

Charleston police officers are making their presence known.

"It makes you feel like you're being watched and that's not a bad thing," Gary Galloway, who lives on the West Side, said.

He said any time you can see more officers, right in the middle of the action, it's a good thing.

"Well, honestly, I've never felt too bad about being downtown at night, as long as you're on the main thoroughfares," Galloway said.

Now that it's warmer, you're going to have a lot of people out, doing a little bit of celebrating.

“Right, the warmer weather obviously brings more people out," Hickman said. "Any time you mix in alcohol, sometimes you have some problems, so we're trying to put more officers on foot down there."

"When you stop in after work, you kind of miss that," Maureen O’Toole, who runs Imageserv in downtown Charleston, said.

And like many people who work downtown, O'Toole may stop and have a drink or dinner with friends after work. Police said those downtown workers are the first wave. Once they go home, then the college students arrive. And even later at night, a different crowd.

"You get some criminal element mixed in that,” Hickman said. “With alcohol, that's when we start having problems."

Eyewitness News asked if it would make people feel more comfortable having officers in patrol on the streets.

“Maybe,” O’Toole said. “I'm typically home before dark, so it's not too scary!"

She joked, but as a downtown business owner, she worries the image that it might not be safe to be there is more damaging than the actual isolated events.

"And it's really bad for the downtown businesses," O’Toole said.

Eyewitness News reached out to the managers at nearly every popular location along Capitol Street and each one kindly declined to speak on camera, but several bartenders said they watch, and so do many of their bouncers, making sure customers do not get over-served. The real challenge for them, they said, is knowing when it's time for you to say “when.”



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