Charleston’s Chief of Police, Steve Cooper, honored the seven officers who make up the Hybrid Unit Wednesday. February 28th marks six months since the unit’s inception.
Chief Cooper hosted a news conference Wednesday at the new headquarters of the Hybrid Unit, the Transit Mall substation, which opened its doors in early 2018.
“Hybrid” refers to the circumstances to which the unit must respond. The officers are “an elite unit of very veteran officers,” according to Chief Cooper. Three of the seven of officers who make up the Hybrid Unit have won the Charleston Police Department’s Jerry Jones Officer of the Year Award, according to Lt. Paul Perdue, who is the unit’s supervisor.
Each officer is equipped with their own cruisers, bikes, and their own, unique uniforms. You’ll know a Hybrid Officer if they are wearing the royal blue and black uniform, Cooper said.
Hybrid patrols could be conducting undercover stings, on a bike, or walking a beat.
One of the critical roles of the unit is to clear abandoned houses. Chief Cooper said there are anywhere between 400 and 450 abandoned structures within city limits. The Hybrid Unit must go in to those structures before any other agency to clear them prior to demolition. The unit has cleared about 180 structures in six months. Most often, there are squatters inside the buildings.
Cooper said the majority of the squatters who are located inside of the abandoned buildings, or “bandos” as the department is now referring to them, are criminal vagrants. Criminal vagrants are men and women who list “no address” or a local shelter as their residence. Some, if not all, are from out of state or out of the region, Cooper said.
Hybrid Patrol officers located 38 squatters taking up residence inside of one bando along Christopher Street recently.
Since September of 2017, the department as a whole has made 540 arrests within the criminal vagrant population. That number, Cooper said, accounts for 25% of the total arrests made.
Since the unit’s inception six months ago, the Chief said the unit has made 361 arrests. “That’s quite a lot of arrests for such a small unit,” Cooper said.
Over the course of February, the unit conducted seven undercover stings across the city, resulting in 71 arrests.
One man arrested in one of the February stings had, on his person, 30 dirty hypodermic needles and 20 unused needles, he said.
Cooper said the unit is making a major difference in terms of tackling “quality of life crimes”. Those crimes are non-violent, but are plaguing the city. Examples of those include, but are not limited to, public urination, defecation, and masturbation.
The role of the Hybrid Unit is about more than making arrests. You can find officers inside of schools and community crime watch meetings, mentoring and answering questions.
Cooper said, “You never know where you’re going to encounter a Hybrid.”