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'Unlawful carry’ charge leads Charleston Co. detention center bookings

Revolver fun in a man's back pocket

Photo: CrazyD / iStock / Getty Images

CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCSC) - Unlawful carrying of a weapon is set to be the top charge for people booked into the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center for the second year in a row.

According to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, 742 individuals were booked on the charge between January and October of this year.

“Our purpose is to inform decision-makers, stakeholders and the community of what’s happening locally and different ways that they can problem solve, increased professionalism and close gaps where they’re existing,” research manager Dr. Ashleigh Wojslawowicz with the Charleston County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council says.

The study shows that of those booked into the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center on an unlawful carrying of a weapon charge, 90-92% are men and 88-91% are Black. It is the most frequent charge for people 34 years old and younger.

“What we intend to do with this information is again, it’s better informing those leaders and so for the different, the different for law enforcement officers office, is that something where by being better informed of what’s happening at the detention center, then they can look at their own strategies and look at case management. They can look at resource allocation,” Wojslawowicz says.

Pastor Thomas Dixon, a community activist and advocate for gun safety, says these numbers make a few things clear to him about certain problems and how to fix them.

“Guns are being brought into urban communities and sold. And it’s been that way since I was a kid and I’m 71 years old now,” Dixon says.

“We need to aggressively begin tracking where these crime guns are coming from. The other part of that is getting involved in the election process. Because having legislators to go to is one thing. Having legislators that will hear your voice on this gun issue is something entirely different,” Dixon says.

The study also shows that unlawful carry is the top recurring charge.

“When it comes to illegal possessions or those convicted felons who are being released, they’re getting a slap on the wrist instead of actually having serious criminal penalties imposed on them. I’m not pro incarceration, but I am pro saving lives,” Dixon says.

The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council says the top booking charge is only one aspect of the many different data points they have been tracking since 2015. Their job, as a part of the county’s public safety office, is to present the trends to leaders.

“There’s a lot of, we call it evidence-based practices, so using data to inform decisions, so we’re not trying to overwhelm individuals with the type of data or the amount of numbers really, we just want to apply those figures into what we’re doing day to day to help it makes sense. So when there are policy decisions, procedure changes that is all rooted in facts and not feelings,” Wojslawowicz says.

But she says not just leaders need to know what’s going on, but the people of the county deserve to know the trends as well. She says the data can have far-reaching implications.

“So if they’re if we’re looking at this particular charge of unlawful carry, then what does that mean for me in my residence? Well, we look at well, potentially, your safe storage of the firearms where they are being kept How are individuals access to them that shouldn’t have access to it? So it’s really just it’s one response or this report is one response to a much larger question of how can we collectively as a community come together and make our Charleston safer?” Wojslawowicz says.

Dixon says this information is part of his call to action, as a Board Member at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and as a local Violence Interrupter for Positive Vibes Ronjanae Smith.

“The first thing that I would suggest that all citizens do is to take ownership of our community. If you know of a situation where there are illegal firearms present if you know where there’s criminal activity, report that to law enforcement. In our community right here, we have violence interrupters available, myself being one, where the community can contact us and we in turn, will make sure that the information gets passed on in order to protect the sources,” Dixon says.

The Positive Vibes toll-free violence interrupter number is 877-334-6837. The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council will put out a comprehensive review of the local justice system’s trends in early 2024 as well.

Copyright 2023 WCSC. All rights reserved.

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