SHELBY, NC (WBTV) - Everyone wants to feel like they live in a safe area, and one community outside of Charlotte says the steps they're taking to improve the area are working.
Shelby Police Chief Jeff Ledford says violent crime and gangs go hand-in-hand. That's why news of five gang members pleading guilty to gun, drugs, and other serious charges means his officers are moving in the right direction for keeping residents safe.
"You see a lot of the shooting and the cuttings and the violent crime. It had permeated our neighborhoods and it was starting to change those neighborhoods - and obviously for the worst and not the better," said Chief Ledford.
Chief Ledford says his department changed its philosophy in how it tries to tackle crime, and it seems to be working. According to police records, violent crime in the city is the lowest it's ever been.
"Very proud of what they did and what they accomplished," the chief said.
Part of those changes include how they handle people who are arrested for drugs - activity the chief says is a root cause of violent crimes.
"They have to have a place to sell drugs so we go after the drug dealer, but we also go after the place - whether it's a street corner or home or whatever."
The news of the city's decline in crime comes at the same time five Shelby "blood" gang members all pleaded guilty to cases being investigated involving drugs and guns:
- Quincy Haynes, 39, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and three counts of trafficking cocaine.
- Christopher Hamrick, 28, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy and to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.
- Twylain Wilson, 25, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy, possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and firearm possession in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime.
- Raheam Hopper, 24, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy.
- David Lowe, 26, pleaded guilty to racketeering conspiracy.
"The people that we're taking out were committing those crimes," said Chief Ledford.
Jamie Coulter, who owns a wine shop in uptown Shelby, says he's glad to hear about the department's success. He thinks more people will be willing to stroll the streets if they know crime is down.
"It just makes it easier for people not to be afraid to walk around," Coulter said.
The chief also says while he and his officers are proud of the work they're doing, the celebration won't be long because there's still violent crime going on and cases they've yet to solve.