Partnering to cut crime

  • Posted: Sunday, April 27, 2014 12:46 a.m.

Residents of Salisbury’s West End neighborhood have taken a key step toward fighting crime in their neighborhood — raising awareness by airing their concerns at City Council meetings. Now they and the city need to work together to restore peace and security.

Salisbury Police can’t do it alone, and neither can the residents.

The West End is bound by South Caldwell, West Innes, Hedrick, Burton, Grace and West Thomas streets. Recent problems there have been well-documented — three killings in 10 months, dozens of break-ins and multiple shootings. The tipping point seemed to come when a stray bullet went into the bedroom two girls shared. Though they heard the shots, the girls didn’t discover how close they came to tragedy until they tried to use the small TV between their beds. It was broken, hit by a bullet that came through the wall behind it.

That was too close — in the line of fire.

This situation has been building for some time. Police Chief Rory Collins told City Council in January that, compared to five years ago, the city’s overall crime rate was down by 8.6 percent while the West End’s crime rate was up by 12.6 percent. He shared plans to beef up patrols.

But drive-by shootings continued, so frustrated citizens felt that only taking the matter to City Council would get them real results. They had a sense of urgency to get something done, and they weren’t convinced the city shared that feeling. The largely African-American population of the neighborhood has felt slighted.

Police walk a fine line as they try to restore a sense of security for the West End. It’s one thing to see police cars on patrol, another to feel like you’re living in a police state. While some residents are fine with police checking every suspicious vehicle and questioning loiterers, it would not take much to prompt others to claim harassment and racial profiling.

It doesn’t help when, after a shooting occurs, everyone who might have witnessed the crime goes mum with police. They may fear reprisals or distrust police — maybe both. Residents need to share what they know and police must respect their desire for confidentiality. The neighborhood and police need to build a better relationship to tackle this problem together.

Crime stems from a host of problems in the areas of employment, education, housing, opportunity and more. No one program can address them all. But one thing could condemn crime-fighting efforts — the failure of residents and police to work together. As adversaries, they waste energy clashing with each other. As partners, they double their power to bring about positive change.

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