It may not be exactly where it wants to be when it comes to crime statistics, but the city of North Charleston says they see improvements at the year’s end. In 2007, North Charleston was ranked as the 7th most violent city in the nation. Now that the city is out of the “Top Ten Most Dangerous Cities in America List,” released every year, North Charleston Police Chief Jon Zumalt reflects on his path to making the city safer.
Like you would a good football team you just keep bringing in good talents, building leadership capacity in the agency, and treating your people right and developing good strategies, and sticking with them and not letting all the distractions get you off your game plan.
North Charleston still has a lot of work to be done, says Zumalt, and is still one of the most dangerous cities in South Carolina, but he says it is on the right track.
Zumalt says improvement happens with community help.
That’s one of our main objectives. Bringing down crime is just half of it, the other half is gaining the respect and trust of the people, so our mantra for our agency is doing both at the same time and we work very hard to build relationships as we go along with our community.
To build those community relationships, Zumalt explains one initiative he has implemented:
One example would be, we have seven neighborhoods that are a bit more challenging and what I did is I embedded officers in each of those neighborhoods and they don’t answer calls to service all the time. What they do is they get out and they work with the residents, and they work with the businesses, and they just go in there and develop those relationships so that when we do have something happen we know who to go to and we have that support within that neighborhood.
The chief says he gets plenty of credit and support from the city’s mayor, Keith Summey, as well as other city officials. Zumalt says this support is what is needed to make a city run successfully.
My belief is a police chief is adequately funded and adequately supported, if he can’t deal with the crime, get a new chief. And, that’s just how I feel about it. I have the support of council, and I have the support of my boss, Mayor Summey, and that allows me to get out there and try new things without getting my head cut off.
Since 2006, North Charleston violent crime has gone down by 33 percent, and homicides have dropped by more than 60 percent, says Zumalt.