Metal detectors in the public work space have become a commonly accepted nuance of this generation. Lowcountry schools and governmental buildings alike have begun installing these fixture to enhance security and instill safety in the workplace.
On Nov. 27, Isle of Palms City Council voted 7-2 in favor of considering the use of metal detector with a trained assistant and the presence of an armed police officer for future monthly council and Ways and Means committee meetings. The new feature would cost the city $3,500 annually if and when council votes to ratify it over the next coming readings.
The yearly expense would be compensated from council’s general fund as well as the Isle of Palms Police Department’s overtime wages, according to Isle of Palms Mayor Jimmy Carroll.
“You see more and more shootings in the most unthought-of locations,” Carroll said. “We make laws that upset people and you just don’t know what’s going to set somebody off.”
This week, Carroll and the rest of council will be taking active-shooter training instructed by the Isle of Palms P.D.
“This isn’t something we want to think will ever happen but who would have thought Mother Emmanuel Church would happen? Who would have thought Sandy Hook and all these places? It’s unthinkable,” Carroll continued. “It’s something that we are proud of, it’s something that we would be remissed if we didn’t do it.”
“It’s a safety issue. I’d hate to have somebody get hurt if we didn’t go forward with it,” Carroll added.
Carroll says no incident in particular provoked council to move forward on this initiative. He says it has been in the works on their agenda for some time and now it’s being brought to the forefront. Earlier this year, the City of Isle of Palms was recognized as the No. 1 safest city in South Carolina, according to the 2018 FBI crime report. It has been on this list for the past four years running.
“We’ve had no threats whatsoever but you read daily it seems like nowadays of another shooting event,” Carroll said. “It’s crazy, it really is crazy in this world nowadays, it’s a sad state of affairs when we have to take these levels of protection but I think it’s for the good of everyone to always be prepared.”
Although there hasn’t been a history of violence or patterns of crime as of late, Carroll persists that this course of action is preventative rather than reactive.
However, this consensus was not unanimously shared by all of council. There was some contention as to whether it’s necessary, claiming the island’s amount of criminal activity doesn’t suggest such safety precautions.
“Mount Pleasant is a major metropolitan area, we’re a small, little village,” said council member Ted Kinghorn, in reference to the Town of Mount Pleasant’s installation of a metal detector and baggage scanner at its new town hall facility which opened in August 2017. “I don’t think it’s necessary. There are other precautions that can be taken that would be less costly and less intrusive.”
Kinghorn says he’s unsure where the initiative originated from but believes it was a recommendation from Interim Police Chief Kim Usry. Usry could not be reached for comment to confirm or deny the validity of this statement.
“It’s overkill, it’s unnecessary. We usually have law enforcement at the meetings anyway and I don’t think we’re a threat,” Kinghorn continued. “I’ve asked if there’s been a threat assessment done and there hasn’t been. So we’re making decisions with the absence of any analysis.”
"I worry that having an armed officer with a wand and metal detectors will change the culture of our meetings," said council member Carol Rice, who too voted against the popular vote. "I want the public to feel welcomed as well as secure. I think we have to balance the two and this feels like it is slightly over policing."
On average, annually, Isle of Palms reports approximately 30 incidents of burglary, 80 cases of theft, 10 vehicle thefts, 120 claims of property damage and zero violence-based crimes. Isle of Palms crime rates are 29 percent lower than in comparison to South Carolina’s average, according to areavibes.com. These statistics could not be confirmed by the Isle of Palms P.D.