Muhiydin D Baha leads a group

North Charleston Movie Listings

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — As North Charleston surged in population last decade, South Carolina’s third-largest city fought rising crime through a simple policing solution: Be aggressive. But the city’s Police Department lost the respect of many black residents in neighborhoods they blitzed, and now many are upset after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black motorist by a white officer.

Police in North Charleston used computers to track the neighborhoods where crime was on the rise, then sent waves of officers to patrol and conduct traffic stops, looking for offenders and letting drivers know they were present and cracking down. By the numbers, the tactics worked: Every major category of crime, from murder to burglary to robbery to rape, fell significantly from 2007 to 2012, the last year for which statistics are available for the State Law Enforcement Division.

But anger is surfacing as civil rights leaders demand a full U.S. Justice Department investigation of the North Charleston force and its crime-fighting approach. The fatal shooting of Walter Scott as he fled after a traffic stop Saturday stirred outrage around the nation, but people in North Charleston familiar with the Police Department’s focus said they weren’t surprised.

“If the image of the city is more important than the lives of their citizens, there is going to be a problem, ” said Dot Scott, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Charleston branch. She’s unrelated to the slain motorist.

The U.S. Justice Department is conducting a parallel investigation with a local prosecutor into whether there were civil rights violations in the killing of Walter Scott. The NAACP would like that expanded to a full probe of whether racism and lack of respect for civil rights is pervasive through the entire department — like the federal agency’s probe after of another black death at the hands of a law enforcement officer in Ferguson, Missouri.

North Charleston, which has suffered an image problem much of its history, formed in 1972 from the merger of several small communities such as Liberty Hill, which was first settled by free blacks and freed slaves at the end of the Civil War.

With just over 100, 000 people, North Charleston grew by nearly 16, 500 people or about 20 percent from 2000 to 2010. More than half of its residents are minorities, mostly African-Americans. Despite the effects of spillover prosperity from affluent Charleston next door, poverty endures in pockets in North Charleston. About 28 percent of its families make less than $25, 000 a year, according to the U.S. Census.

For years, it battled an economic slump caused by the mid-1990s closing of the Charleston Naval Base on the city’s waterfront. For decades, city fortunes were tied to the base, where 38, 000 people worked in the late 1980s amid illegal tattoo parlors and prostitution that were the seedy hallmarks of many military towns late last century.

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