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City Council, police plan to meet with West End residents

SALISBURY — In response to concerns about recent gun violence in the West End, City Council will meet in the neighborhood next week.
The Salisbury Police Department will hold the meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Miller Recreation Center, 1402 W. Bank St. A notice from the city issued Thursday said City Council was invited to attend and while a quorum may participate, council members would take no action.
The purpose of the meeting is to continue ongoing efforts to build stronger relationships between West End residents and the police officers who serve them, Police Chief Rory Collins said.
During the meeting, Collins will introduce the new community relations officer, Reuben Ijames, who is focused on the West End, as well as the new West End quadrant patrol officers.
Collins also plans to discuss police initiatives in the area. The agenda will include the city’s Code Services Manager Chris Branham and a city representative to discuss street lighting in the West End, which play a crucial part in the quality of life on the West End, Collins said.
Recent gun violence in the West End left two dead, four injured and many others living in fear. Residents say gun violence and other violent crimes have reached epidemic proportions.
After public pleas from several residents and neighborhood advocates frustrated with what they called neglect by the city, elected officials agreed to meet with residents in May.
The Salisbury Police Department has launched several new initiatives to put more officers in the neighborhood, including a second Police Interdiction Team. Police, in partnership with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, also raided two houses in the West End earlier this month and made several arrests on drugs and weapons charges.
Several residents say they have seen an increased police presence in the neighborhood since speaking out.
While the crime rate in Salisbury fell by 8.6 percent from 2009 to 2013, serious crime in the West End jumped more than 12 percent during the same period.
Mayor Paul Woodson said Collins wants to strengthen his department’s rapport with residents living in the West End.
Collins and City Council members want to hear what residents need to feel safe in their neighborhood, Woodson said. The better the relationship is between the community and police, the more likely it is that residents will tell officers who is selling drugs and causing trouble, Woodson said.
“The police can’t do it themselves,” he said.
Collins and his officers are “very sincere” about helping the West End and building goodwill, Woodson said.
Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell said the meeting offers an important opportunity for elected officials to hear feedback from residents for the first time since Collins restructured patrols to provide more coverage in the West End.
“This feedback is critical for any new process so we can adjust and modify to their needs,” Blackwell said.
She said she has been visiting the West End on a weekly basis, dropping in at the grocery store, the barber shop or chatting with neighbors to say, “How are we doing?”
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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