By Rae Walberg for The Island Eye News
Where is the safest city in South Carolina? It’s on a barrier island east of Charleston and just across the Intracoastal Waterway from Mount Pleasant.
For the third consecutive year, a Safewise report has determined that Isle of Palms is the safest place to live in the Palmetto State. The report noted that there were only two violent crimes on the island in 2018, a rate of only 0.5 per 1,000 people.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Isle of Palms than I am right now,” Mayor Jimmy Carroll commented.
Police Chief Kevin Cornett attributed the island’s safety to the “professional and proactive” law enforcement that he said is a priority of one of the top police departments he has worked with.
“We have highly trained officers, we have adequate staffing and we’re able to bring on additional nonsworn personnel during the summertime to help with parking, which leaves our officers available,” Cornett said.
The chief praised law enforcement’s quick response time and consistent presence on the island.
“We had incidents, since I’ve been here, where they could’ve been much worse but, because our officers responded so quickly, we were able to contain the situation,” Cornett said.
Cornett also cited the relationship between law enforcement and residents as contributing to the island’s overall safety.
“We are only as successful as our residence allows us to be successful,” he said. “We have a good relationship with our community, and they feel comfortable calling and telling us when they see suspicious activity.”
Since Cornett was appointed police chief a year ago, he has restructured the department to include an emergency management officer and encouraged staff to vocalize their opinions.
“If I don’t let them give me their ideas, I’m missing some critical information that could help solve a lot of the issues that we may come in contact with,” he said.
The department also participates in the 1033 program, which gives the city access to surplus military equipment such as a Humvee that could be used in high-water rescue events.
Cornett appreciates the support he has received from the mayor and City Council to “create some change” in the police force.
“They just approved us to purchase a drone, which is a cost, but it’s something that they realize will help us keep our community safe,” Cornett said.
Carroll said Cornett is a police chief who “leads by example.”
“It’s that type of leadership that really makes the Police Department great,” Carroll said.
While Isle of Palms has been designated as the safest city in the state, both Carroll and Cornett agreed there is always room for improvement.
“Once you have the top spot for so many years, you want to keep that,” Cornett said. “We will begin to work in some of the areas that we haven’t necessarily addressed: getting our officers into new areas of technology and utilizing those resources to help us make our community even safer while building really strong relationships with our community.”
“I am proud. I’m proud of our island. This is my home, this has been my lifetime home and I’m glad that we hired Chief Kevin Cornett,” Carroll said.