Police meet with residents of troubled neighborhood

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Salisbury's Police Chief knows there's a lot of work to be done in the city's West End.

"It is going to take time" said Chief Rory Collins. "Some of the things this community has experienced over the last while didn't happen over night and it's not going to be an overnight fix."

As part of the city attempt in "building stronger relationships," Chief Collins and officers assigned to the West End met Tuesday evening with neighbors in that community.

In recent months the West End has been plagued with several shootings and other incidents, prompting residents to go before the city council and ask for help.

"I've seen drive-by shootings and I've seen drug dealing and I've seen gang members, it's a lot of things going on around here," said Neighbor Mary Lee, who added that some residents simply abandoned their homes out of fear.

"Some of these people just left their homes and just left. It's three home over here and two on that side of the street gone in the length of time that I've been here and I've been here, next year it'll be 10 years," Lee said.

The Chief introduced "the new Community Relations Officer to them (Officer Ijames), as well as their new West End "Quadrant" patrol officers."

Chief Collins said he decided to restructure the police department back in January he realized the crime rate in the West End had increased 12.2% over the last four years. But, in the city overall, there was a 8.6% drop in crime.

Chief Collins said he tripled the police presence to three officers per shift, in the West End.

The department's street crimes unit told the crowd they've made dozens of arrests for narcotics and weapons. Officers said they've seized pills, marijuana, cocaine, several firearms, pistols and sawed-off rifles.

City officials also discussed plans to improve street lighting, and confront housing code violations.

But some long time residents said they're still frustrated.

"We go out every Friday night at 10 o'clock and we go into high crime areas" said Kenneth Hardin, who is part a group of neighbors keeping an eye on the community.

Hardin said he is a long time resident who has watched family members become victims of crime.

"Where's the progress?" Hardin asked. "We've got a lot of empty boarded up houses. We've got a lot of empty lots. We still got the same issues we've been talking about for 10 or 20 years. People are frustrated. Where's the progress when you still got the same problems 20 years ago?"

Hardin said he wants to see more action, less talk.

Other neighbors told city officials there needs to be more of a partnership between the city and the community. Some called for more police visibility - saying they complained years ago about crime.

Chief Collins says his offices are tackling the problems but he knows there's work to be done.

"Our overall goal is to serve this community" the Chief said.

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