Charleston's east side leaves high murder rate in the past

By Gregory Woods

CHARLESTON, S. C. (WCIV) -- It wasn't long ago that many of Charleston's murders were committed within a three-square-mile radius in the east side neighborhood of Charleston.

That was back in 2010 when the community had ten homicides. Since then, the Charleston Police Department has created a Community Action Team.

Sgt. Damian Seabrook leads Team One of the task force. He says they have been able to drop the murder rate in the neighborhood by 80 percent.

"I know many police officers have a bad rep in most communities, but we were able to have the success that we've had by building trust and it didn't happen overnight," said Seabrook.

Seabrook joined the police force 13 years ago. He said when he got the call to lead the Community Action Team, he only had one goal in mind.

"The plan was to make the east side neighborhood safer," said Seabrook.

Seabrook grew up in a community close to the one he polices.

"I know a lot of people personally I went to school with, and I even have family members that live{}here," which is why Seabrook says fighting crime is his passion. "I know there are career criminals, but that criminal is a mother's son or daughter."

Seabrook says working closely with neighbors has taken the number of murders a year down from 10 in 2010 to two in 2013.

And longtime residents like Mr. Watson, who has lived in the neighborhood his entire life and runs a local corner store, says the community hasn't been this safe in a while.

"Over the 15 years to where this community was and where it is now, it's like going from a disaster to heaven. It's so much more peaceful in the area.{} It allows us to have a comfortable time when you get home from work in the afternoon," said Watson.

Watson believes crime is down because police have become a part of the community.

"They know us by name, and that's what we are getting back to, where you know the citizens and what they are about," he said.

And for officers like Seabrook, getting to know local residents all come down to one thing: trust.

"Trust is the backbone of community policing, not arrests, not meetings, it's trust. If you have that, you have a great thing," he said.

Seabrook says he knows it's impossible to stop crime in a community, but each year his goal is to have fewer homicides than the year before.

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