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Waterfront Park - late nights for Hugging, but also for Mugging

Lee Walton

It’s always a safe bet that when an unsavory event occurs at one of Mayor J. Pericles Riley’s many legacy venues, he’s quick to respond by either belittling the seriousness of the situation, blaming the victims or spouting a sickening spray of platitudinous drivel to divert public attention from his administration’s failure to adequately protect citizens while in public spaces. Such was the case in last Friday’s Palter and Chatter article, “Police to step up park patrols”, when Riley leaped to defend the safety and adequacy of police protection at Charleston’s Waterfront Park following a recent late evening mugging that left a young couple beaten, robbed, stripped naked and swimming for their lives after being tossed from the end of the Waterfront Pier.

Given the litany of reported criminal assaults and other serious crimes chronicled in the December 3rd Palter and Chatter article, the Waterfront Park has become anything but a “very safe place” with “no need to change the way the park operates”. To the contrary, with the increased late-night weekend cruise ship related activities and restaurant and tavern closings still extending until 2:00AM, the Waterfront Park and Cumberland north to the Market are becoming a predator’s paradise offering easy targets innocently out for a late night stroll, including a walk along the Waterfront Park bulkhead or pier. The Riley Administration can’t seriously have us believe that simply saying the park closes at midnight lets them off the hook. How is a tourist couple from way off, out for a late night walk after dinner and drinks at a nearby restaurant, going to know that the Waterfront Park, overlooking one of the most scenic harbor vistas on the East Coast, closes at mid-night and may harbor dangerous criminals that mean them bodily harm?

There are many cities in America that have notorious night-time street crime problems, but Charleston’s extensive, very walkable lower peninsula waterfront, The Battery, and White Point Gardens are not counted among them – at least not yet. Unless the ongoing string of armed robberies, stabbings and thefts in the Waterfront Park and adjacent public spaces are to be taken more seriously with proactive measures to protect the innocent public, The Riley Administration should simply chain them off with bold, well illuminated signs warning of “Dangerous Uncontrolled Criminal Activity after Dark”.

Increased police foot patrols, possibly supplemented with canine assistance, increased lighting along strategic pedestrian paths, several more highly visible surveillance cameras and even emergency call stations similar to the “Blue Light Phones” scattered around the College of Charleston campus are but a few logical responses that should be considered. Pier lights on timers set to come on at midnight are also not too much to ask

Lastly, Riley’s justification for not having lights on the Waterfront Pier “to allow visitors to enjoy the stars without interference from ambient light” is ridiculous. The combined glare from the Yorktown, The College’s Patriot Point athletic fields, the Ravenel Bridge and all too frequent cruise ships light the harbor up like Hong Kong at New Years Eve. The only stars Riley sees are the ones clouding his myopic vision.

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