Charleston mayor wants to increase user fee two years early

Mayor Danny Jones said a wave of homeless transient crime has but Charleston in crisis. He would like to respond with more police funding coming from an increased user fee. (WCHS/WVAH)

Charleston's mayor no longer wants to wait until 2020 to up the city's weekly user fee tax by 50 cents.

This fee. already controversial with those who live and work in the city, would increase from $2.50 to $3.

Mayor Danny Jones said a wave of homeless transient crime has but Charleston in crisis. He believes raising the user fee in 2018 would help to combat that crisis through the addition of a functional police substation as well as the acquisition of ten more officers.

The Charleston Police Department currently owns a building in Slack Plaza, but it is relatively empty. Jones said he wants to turn the building into a working police substation.

"The substation at the Transit Mall will put the city's foot patrol, K-9 and bike units in a busy area for residents and non-residents," Jones said.

Jones said he is being pressured by residents who have been the victims of homeless crimes. He does not contend that the estimated 400 people now living on the streets of Charleston are criminals, but he feels enough of them are to cause a crisis in the city.

Lieutenant Steve Cooper, the incoming police chief, said the crimes committed by the homeless range from arson murder to theft.

"It's a huge problem. Just in the last few weeks I've had my post office box broken into, checks were stolen. Didn't even know they were stolen until the cops found them in the vagrants back pack," Monty Smith said. "And then I got broken into last Tuesday. They ransacked my office, stole a laptop computer. The police were very good about that. We had videos in there. Caught them quickly. Then, just last night my truck was vandalized."

Jones said the substation will be completed even if the city council decides not to raise the user fee early.

That fee is pulled from the paychecks of all people working in Charleston, regardless of whether or not they reside in the city.

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