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Safe by design: Police help neighbors spruce up to ward off crime


Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman, right, removes decking from a house in the Riverdale community on June 29, 2019.


Karen Eckert

Monday, July 1, 2019

There’s more to fighting crime than locking people up.

While making arrests is important, the Greenville Police Deptartment also is working to prevent crime from happening in the first place through a program called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, said Capt. David Anderson, commander of the West Zone Substation.

The theory behind CPTED (pronounced ‘sep-ted’) is that well-kept homes and properties lead to safer and more secure neighborhoods.

“We’ve seen some really awesome results in other parts of the city by using (this strategy),” Anderson said.

Putting the CPTED theory into practice, dozens of volunteers gathered on Saturday morning at the West Zone Substation in Riverdale, a neighborhood between Tyson Street and Memorial Boulevard that has been identified as a high-crime area.

The volunteers offered their time and skills toward the improvement and repair of eight neighborhood homes.

Their “to do” lists included pressure washing houses, replacing deck boards and railings, replacing a screen door, installing motion detector lights, putting up fencing and doing yard work.

When a house is neglected — for example if a property has no exterior lighting, a fence is in disrepair and a yard is overgrown — it sends a message to potential criminals that a house is vacant, which, in turn, invites trespassing and other criminal activity, said John Logelfo, a neighborhood police officer in the West Zone.

“We have older residents who haven’t had time to get to some of these things (or sometimes) they physically can’t,” Logelfo said.

The neighborhood policing program was started in 2017, said Brian Gillen, also a neighborhood police officer.

Neighborhood police officers focus on community policing, he said.

In the Riverdale neighborhood, police officers have gone door to door to talk to the residents to find out what their main issues of concern are. They also sent out surveys, Gillen said.

Crimes, such as drugs and prostitution, were at the top of the list and, as a result, some operations were put into place to get those crimes under control, he said.

In addition to crime, neighborhood police offers also address quality-of-life issues with residents, Gillen said.

Ethel Clemons said she was very grateful to the team that visited her house. Volunteers power washed the exterior of her home and replaced an old lamp globe with a new one.

“Sometimes it is expensive to get these things done,” Clemons said.

At the home of Sarah Barcous, volunteers replaced a damaged screen door with a new one and replaced deck boards and railings. There were also plans to pressure wash the home’s exterior and to install motion lights.

Both Clemons and Barcous said that the help they received on Saturday was “a blessing.”

In addition to making the neighborhood safer, when police officers get out in the community to help the residents, it establishes relationships of trust, Gillen said.

Police officers weren’t the only ones volunteering on Saturday.

Anderson said that the West Zone partnered with Lowe’s and Koinonia Church to make the event happen.

Long-time Lowe’s employee-turned-patrol-officer Daniel Paldino served as a liaison between the West Zone and Lowe’s in forming a partnership. He was also on hand to volunteer on Saturday.

Lowe’s donated the materials and supplies needed to carry out the projects and also contributed volunteer labor.

Krystal Brown, assistant store manager, brought along her two kids, Matthew, 14, and Kailee, 12, as well as some of their friends. Lowe’s pro supervisor Alan Parnell, who works on a daily basis with contractors to set them up with their lumber and other building materials, was also on hand.

Members of Koinonia Church, who are part of the church’s Habitat ministry, also volunteered on Saturday. They have experience assisting in the building of houses, said church member Gerri Ashe.

“Our skill set is assistance,” Ashe said. “With assistance the experts can move faster.”

“We do this (type of work) all the time.”

Giving back to the community is important, said Alyce Hawkins, another member of the church.

“This is a way that, regardless of who you are and what you can do, you can give back because that’s what we need to do. And there are lots and lots of people out there that need our help,” Hawkins said.

Police Chief Mark Holtzman participated in Saturday’s event and had brought along his 15-year-old son Liam.

Holtzman said he has challenged the commanders of the four different zones within the city to come up with projects that will give back to the community, connect officers with the community and create opportunities for officers to build some relationships in the neighborhoods where they’re working.

“Dave (Anderson), right now, is leading the charge among all those zone commanders with (today’s event), but we have some activities planned in the other zones as well,” Holtzman said.

“I’m very excited to be here today.”

For more information about CPTED or to schedule a home or business security survey, contact the GPD’s Community Outreach Division at 329-4339. More information is also available at https://www.greenvillenc.gov/home/showdocument?id=14389 or http://www.cpted.net.