Is King Street any safer? A look at what has been done to curb violence in the Holy City

Charleston County News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Sweeping changes to King Street, including one-way traffic, prohibited street parking, and extra security at all times went into effect six months ago after a Count on 2 Investigation shed a light on some of the shocking crimes happening along Charleston’s most famous street.

Lawson Roberts, a national event planner who calls Charleston home, said his clients now feel more at ease planning their gatherings, from galas with hundreds of people, to birthday parties with just a dozen.

“The disturbances, to speak quite candidly, have simply gone down,” Roberts said.

“Disturbances” are now far less common than they were in the spring. Police admitted that shootings, stabbings, and sexual assaults were getting out of control on Upper King.

“When that story came out, it became kind of a touchstone that a lot of people needed to take notice of,” said Lieutenant James Byrne who oversees the central business district, which includes King Street.

Charleston’s top leaders held a press conference on May 10th, just one day after our investigation aired. Police said they were finally empowered to make some changes they had been thinking about for a while.

“They had asked for the one-way traffic, they had asked for the reduction and elimination of parking on King Street, at certain hours on certain evenings, they asked for additional help, additional staff downtown.”

Those changes went into effect over the next couple of weeks, and it’s hard not to notice them even during the day. To find out if they were really working, we heard straight from the source, the people who work and play right on King: 

“You don’t hear about shootings like you heard months ago anymore, and I think the real reality is they are lighting the streets a lot better now, there is a presence of local officials, you know the police department, that is there… adults like to feel safe. You know, when you are bringing your wife out on date night on Saturday night, you do not want to have to even think, in the city of Charleston, there is an opportunity to have any sort of “non-ok” thing, a mugging, or anything like that happen,” said Roberts.

Lt. Byrne said along with the changes to the safety infrastructure on the street, they made arrests as well.

“We took a bunch of guns off King Street, we took people that had no business being out here, to jail, for things that they were doing that were not contributing to the atmosphere that the city really wants to have out here,” he said.

Further down King, we caught up with Jay Pressley who works at a popular restaurant in the middle of the central business district. The last time we spoke to him, he had instituted a buddy system for employees just to try and keep them safe walking to their cars: 

“I do feel a lot safer,” he said. “Just knowing I can come out of my business’s door and make it to my car safely.”

Pressley said some changes that might seem minor, like the shift in traffic flow, have made big impacts. “It’s nice to see the one way, it does help with the traffic, and no one is just throwing random parties in the street, and that helps with controlling the crowd and the flow.”

These changes make people feel a little safer every time they take a walk down Charleston’s most famous street.

“You want to feel safe in the Holy City, it’s the Holy City for a reason.”

Even with the great feedback, there is still more to uncover. Coming up later this month, we’ll take a look at some of the changes being implemented now and what city hall is working on for the new year.

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