By Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling
While being mayor is a fun, exciting and rewarding opportunity, there are times that are not fun. One of those is dealing with unacceptable behavior, specifically threats to public safety in our neighborhoods and on our streets.
A year or so ago, we experienced a rash of thefts, vandalism and other issues around the downtown Marina. Through collaboration among the downtown merchants, the marina operator and our residents we addressed the problems with proactive measures, and they ended.
Last summer, we experienced juveniles brandishing firearms and taking shots at others who had no safe place indoors to play basketball or other activities. The police took immediate action, found the perpetrators and a community organization was formed to make sure the Charles Lynn Brown Center was reopened so that good youngsters now have a safe place to go. Fingers crossed, that problem was taken care of, although it can reoccur, so we must remain vigilant.
In recent weeks, we had three very unfortunate incidents in area around Bay and Port Republic streets. The police are working on this and I would encourage those who live and work downtown to maintain a watchful eye and call the police if they see anything suspicious. (The direct line is 843-524-2777.)
A number of people have recommended more police officers and perhaps even some on foot patrolling downtown. If resources were unlimited, this certainly would not hurt, but after talking with Beaufort Police Department Chief Clancy and Beaufort City Manager Scott Dadson, I am convinced that the area is well covered. My examination of records assures me that officers are in the area and respond to every call within remarkable time frames.
I asked Chief Clancy what we could do to engage the neighborhood and merchants to help report crimes.
The Police Chief has made himself available to meet with merchants, but the last time he met with those invited to a meeting through Main Street, few people showed up because the day meetings were difficult because they were minding their shops, and evening meetings would not work because after a hard day’s work, they were ready to rest and go home to be with their families. Both are certainly reasonable. But we need to find a time and place since such meetings are necessary if the police are going to council merchants on how to create preventative measures and understand the best way to handle challenging circumstances.
If merchants are not able to leave their places of business, the police department will be happy to schedule individual meetings with merchants and their employees, at their business, at a mutually agreeable time.
I wholeheartedly believe in our law enforcement officers and their leadership, but also know that they cannot be everywhere all the time, are not always able to see everything that takes place. They need our help so they can do the best they can to keep our streets and our neighborhoods safe for all.