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Seized: Protecting the Streets of North Charleston Through Community Efforts

Charleston Farms community center (WCIV).JPG

Right off Sumner Ave. in the heart of North Charleston, is one of the largest communities in the city. Charleston Farms is a place David Crane calls home.

"This was a farming community back 50 years ago. The community is pretty diverse," said Crane, Charleston Farms Neighborhood Council President. "I have lived in this community for 40 years. I have seen it all."

In the early 1990's a police substation opened where officers were called the "Speed Team". They patrolled the streets. The Speed Team is a unit responsible for creating community partnerships while deterring crime.

Crane recalled, "There was times you couldn't even go down the street because someone would flag you down trying to sell you something."

In those times, arrests for violent crimes happened often and drugs were a big concern.

"It was really good when I came. It got bad for a while and now we are on the road to recovery," he said.

He says proof can be seen in the 739 guns seized last year in North Charleston as many of them came from the Charleston Farms community.

In 2016, city wide, 564 guns were seized making it a 31 percent jump over 2017.

Chief Deputy David Cheadle has been with the North Charleston Police Department for 26 years. "It's a lot of weapons," he said. Cheadle calls 2017 record breaking.

He explained how it goes back to the reactiveness of the officers on the street, "The more proactive they are, the more guns that are seized."

So where do all the seized guns go?

If one was stolen. police work to return it to its owner. However, if it's an illegal gun, there's a state law. "If the person is found guilty then the gun is destroyed. It is seized by our department and then it is brought to SLED and destroyed," said Cheadle.

Cheadle also credits the department's success to more people notifying police of folks with illegal guns, but there's still one big hurdle. "I believe some people are just scared in North Charleston. I think there is a misperception out there that maybe anytime I call the police the officer is going to come to the door," he said.

Cheadle says that's false. Every tip can be anonymous. An officer does not have to come to your house if you file a report.

And back with Dave Crane at Charleston Farms, he stays busy keeping up with the community garden. "It is not the best season but some of the cold weather vegetables like broccoli, lettuce and wheat are starting to grow."

"I heard this one needed a little bit of help and I came over here and started working on it and helping out some," said Alex Earnest, who helps Crane with the community garden.

The sense of community is what Crane is most proud of. "It is our community. It's not my community. It's not their community, it's our community," said Crane. Neighbors are now getting more involved and taking care of each another.

"We are doing our best to keep the crime out," said Crane. "The citizens of this community are just not going to take it anymore. We are tired of it."

The Charleston Farms community is transforming into one that's safe for generations to come.

"We really want to get the children involved because they are the future. If they get involved, then our community is going to grow. If not, it's going to die," added Crane.

ABC News 4 wanted to know how North Charleston compares to other places in the Lowcountry when it comes to gun seizures. We were given the following numbers.

  • North Charleston:
    2017- 739
    2016- 564
  • Charleston:
    2017- 408
    2016- 376
  • Summerville:
    2017- 87
    2016- 60
  • Berkeley County:
    2017- 285
    2016- 246
  • Columbia:
    2017- 570
    2016- 498

There are varying reasons for a seizure. Many are illegal, but some may be considered legal but carried improperly or even stolen.

Police urge you to help make our communities safer. If you see someone with an illegal gun or know someone who has one, you can report an anonymous tip to Crime Stoppers at any time at 843- 554-1111.

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