Everyone knows that the King Street shopping district is one of the major treasures of the Charleston economy, both as far as tourism and retail sales. But shoplifting seems to be taking its toll on the district, and many retailers feel that the police presence along King Street has diminished, leaving them without much help in fighting thieves.
The Charleston Mercury has written an article on the issue, with a focus on one David Gallipeau, department manager of Jos. A. Bank, who has been a part of the King Street retail scene for many years. Gallipeau prefers to take matters into his own hands when someone tries to go for a five-finger discount, as the Mercury reports:
When David Gallipeau tears down King Street red in the face, arms flailing, and screaming every variation of the words "stop," "die," and "your mother’s grave," the last person you want to be is the guy several steps ahead with the handful of sweaters and no receipts. That guy is the worst kind of person in David’s book. If you are that guy and David catches you, which occasionally he does, he will make you pay, and it will have nothing to do with money. Though dignity is probably not assessed in preclusion of such behavior, you can be sure that there is none in getting the living tar kicked out of you by someone with impeccable taste.
While the full description of Gallipeau's vigilante justice on the shoplifter is hilarious to read, you have to wonder if it's really a good thing ...
Jos. A. Bank has now hired a security detail, to avoid placing such burdens as that described above on retail staff, but many small businesses on King Street can't afford the added cost. And many feel left completely open to criminals. The Mercury continues:
The Mercury has spoken with nearly 30 businesses in the area during the last few weeks, and the vast majority of them are asking the same question: “Where have all the beat cops gone?”
A majority of the store owners on King Street with whom we spoke feel that in the last two or three years, and with the arrival of Police Chief Greg Mullen, all the police were put back in cars at the expense of the King and Market Streets shopping districts, where traffic and one-way streets make it nearly impossible for a vehicle to respond effectively to a shoplifting incident, at least until after the fact.
And the problem isn't an imaginary one, either. The Mercury says that in the span of two weeks recently, Jackson Davenport was robbed of $7,300 in merchandise.
So what's the answer to the problem? The Mercury calls for the return of foot patrols during peak business hours, though Chief Mullen didn't respond to a request for his thoughts on the issue.