By Shavonne Potts
The answer to Salisbury and Rowan County’s gang problem ó or at least a step in the right direction ó could rest with you.
The city and county want community participation at the Salisbury-Rowan United gang summit next week.
Organizers, mayors from surrounding towns, law enforcement officials and other community leaders gathered Wednesday to discuss final plans for the summit.
The summit, entitled Salisbury-Rowan United: Creating an Action Agenda for a Safer Community and a Positive Future for our Youth, will be from 6:30 pm. to 9 p.m. June 14 at the Salisbury Civic Center.
Discussion about youth violence and gang activity increased after the February murder of 14-year-old Brooklyn A.P. Jones and the March shooting death of 13-year-old Treasure Feamster at a party attended by gang members.
Many people wrote letters to the Post and city officials saying something had to be done. The summit is an opportunity for a collective discussion of suggestions and possible solutions.
Before Wednesday’s meeting got underway, Arnold Chamberlain, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, spoke briefly of concerns he’s received from people in the community.
When asked his response to the presence of gangs and recent violent activity, Chamberlain said, “If I can’t do anything to help the children then I’m of little value.”
That was the charge he issued to everyone in the room ó to be a help to the children.
Salisbury Mayor Susan Kluttz spoke of the “public outcry” following Feamster’s death.
“We all feel strongly that this is what we’re working for,” she said.
Kluttz said she was proud of a recent 15-church crusade that addressed gang violence and even more churches since then who were willing to get involved.
“We can do nothing and let it happen to us or do something,” she said. To those who feel helpless, she said, “there is something you can do.”
Kluttz said she hopes individuals, churches, civic groups, youth agencies and businesses attend the summit to explore possible solutions. She said organizers hope the summit will be a huge public hearing, “where we can create an action agenda of what we can do.”
Salisbury Police Chief Mark Wilhelm stressed that the summit isn’t just a city initiative, but a countywide one.
“Gang problems don’t stop at the … lines of my town or your town,” he said.
Warren Miller, founder and president of Fountainworks, a Raleigh marketing, research and policy consulting firm, discussed his role in planning the summit. He provided an overview of the event, which will include an educational gang session by Salisbury Police Officer Todd Sides and guest speaker Bryan Beatty, secretary of the N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety.
Also, tables will display information from law enforcement, civic groups, schools and other organizations.
The Salisbury Civic Center is at 315 S Boundary St.
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Shavonne Potts