GPD, NC Civil host Town Hall to discuss crime
By Seth Thomas Gulledge
The Daily Reflector
Wednesday, February 14, 2018
Police-community relations are growing and crime is decreasing in west Greenville, thanks in part to efforts made by NC Civil’s Westgate initiative and community policing methods by the Greenville Police Department, officials said.
On Tuesday night, about 60 police officers, West Greenville residents and city officials gathered at the Eppes Recreation Center for a meeting of the Police Community Relations Commission. The commission meets once month, but for February’s meeting they sponsored a West Greenville Town Hall for residents to meet and ask questions of the police officers that serve their neighborhoods.
Lieutenant David Anderson, West Zone Commander, said the meeting is important because it provided a relaxed setting for residents to voice concerns to officers and have a chance to meet them and establish personal relationships.
“It’s great outreach and gives us an opportunity to have good, candid discussions with the community and let them know what we’re doing,” he said. “Because the community doesn’t always know what we are doing to help.”
For the first hour of the meeting, attendees were encouraged to meet each other and help themselves to refreshments. Anderson said he tried to get as many officers as he could to the event, because it was important for residents to meet those they would be interacting with, not just the higher administration.
“They're the ones patrolling the streets, so it’s super important the citizens get to know our officers who are on the streets,” he said. “They’re the ones that are out there every single day taking calls for service, they’re the ones who are really making a difference.”
A large part of the evening was focused on a presentation about NC Civil’s Westgate Initiative. Jermaine McNair, executive director of NC Civil, as well as mayor’s appointee to the commission and a outreach specialist for Pitt Community College, gave the presentation.
McNair said over the last year since the initiative was started, the group had mobilized its resources and relationships with partners across the city to help residents of west Greenville.
He said a large part of this was spurred by GPD’s agreement with NC Civil to compile a list of every resident between the ages of 16-24 who is arrested by the department. McNair said the group takes these names and mobilizes advocates to start helping the families and surrounding neighbors.
“There once was a time when Johnny got arrested next door, it was a shock and everybody wanted to know why, and what they could do to help, and if everyone was going to find out because neighbors would be knocking on the door,” McNair said. “We’ve become so desensitized to it that now when Johnny gets arrested, we don’t even say anything, we’re just used to it.
“We want to spark a reaction from the community so that when someone gets arrested, that’s a call for the community to stand up and help,” he said.
In addition to helping families in specific incidences, the group uses these interactions and data compiled from the list to begin assisting the neighborhoods that need the most help. McNair said the group uses its resources to connect residents to education opportunities, financial assistance, employment opportunities and even performs wellness checks throughout the area.
Anderson said efforts like the one being made by NC Civil are critical in establishing safe and vibrant communities in the city. He said the department has seen dramatic changes in crime reduction and relationships between officers and community members.
“I get the question all the time, ‘How are you guys reducing crime?’” he said. “This is how we reduce crime, through collaboration with the community. We can arrest people all day long, but what really reduces crime is that collaboration.”
Contact Seth Gulledge at firstname.lastname@example.org and 329-9579