The Charleston Police Department has expanded the hours of operation for its Hybrid Unit, adding an evening shift.
The unit is made up of officers on bikes or foot that go throughout the Charleston community to talk with residents and patrol the streets.
Tuesday through Saturday from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m. Additional patrols will be concentrated around the Charleston Town Center Mall, Capitol Street, Elk City, transit mall, Charleston Coliseum & Convention Center and the downtown area.
For Police Chief Opie Smith, adding a night time shift made sense because that’s when more people seem to be out.
“A lot of people can’t be out during the daytime because they’re at work,” Smith said. “I think it makes them feel a lot more comfortable seeing police officers out and they can have that one-on-one conversation with.”
There’s a total of eight officers on the Hybrid Unit. The officers used to all be on the day shift, but three were moved to cover the new night shift.
When the unit started a year and a half ago, there were six officers, Smith said. When Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin announced Smith as police chief in early January, he said he was looking to expand the group.
Now with the new shift, Smith said he hopes to add two more people so there can be five and five on each shift.
“The more visibility that we can provide throughout the downtown area, especially around our shops and restaurants, the better off we will be,” Smith said. “I feel that the additional patrols will be beneficial to public safety.”
Smith said the extra police presence will make some people more comfortable or others think twice before doing something they shouldn’t.
It’s also easier for the Hybrid Unit to focus on “problem areas,” Smith said.
“Patrol spends so much time on 911 calls. Sometimes they’ll need to run 911 calls all day,” Smith said. “It’s easier to expand the Hybrid Unit to hit those problem areas.”
Goodwin said the extra shift was one of the first steps to making the community safer.
“Charleston’s Hybrid Unit has been instrumental in fostering relationships and supporting a positive environment within our communities,” Goodwin said.
“Keeping our citizens safe is my top priority and adding additional patrols throughout the evening hours is the first step in accomplishing that.”