Fighting crime in West End

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 9, 2014

West End residents concerned about an apparent jump in their area’s crime rate should welcome a new policing strategy that will increase the number of officers in that area. A more visible police presence translates into lower visibility for burglars, vandals and other perpetrators of crimes of opportunity.
But shifting cops on the beat is only one part of the new “quadrant” policing plan outlined this week by Chief Rory Collins. Another equally important part is aimed at building stronger ties between residents and officers through an additional community relations officer and more engagement with neighborhood watch leaders. Those civilian neighborhood eyes and ears are a crucial part of any policing effort. Concerned citizens don’t simply report crimes or suspicious activity. They become advocates for their neighborhoods in other areas as well. Neighborhood pride is a crime prevention tool, too.
Collins’ approach reflects strategies that have proved their effectiveness. For instance, the city of High Point has won praise for a targeted strategy that dramatically reduced crime in a drug-plagued neighborhood there. That community — also coincidentally known as West End — reached the breaking point because of violent street crimes. As recently reported in a special report in the Fayetteville Observer, the turnaround began several years ago when police and community leaders joined forces to put more resources into the area while also engaging residents in the battle. Through the combination of intervention and prevention, crime dropped so substantially the strategy was adopted in other High Point areas.
Crime statistics often fluctuate from year to year for a variety of factors, so some caution is advised in discerning trends. While Collins noted that Salisbury’s West End had an increase in crimes such as burglaries, car theft and rape compared to five years ago, other categories including robberies, larceny and aggravated assault showed a decline. For Salisbury as a whole, the crime rate was down. West End isn’t in the grip of a crime crisis, but the increase in some categories — particularly property crimes — has understandably triggered residents’ worries and, now, a police response.
Crime is just one part of the West End story. There’s also a renewed commitment among city leaders to revitalize this area — which includes Livingstone College and the VA campus — through the West End Transformation Plan. Fighting crime and fighting poverty go hand in hand. While there’s no magic bullet for either, putting more officers on the street and building more trust with residents will help deter criminals. So will improvements in housing, health care, transportation and employment opportunities.