Police chief: West End substation closed because of lack of attendance

Published 6:37 am Wednesday, July 22, 2015

By Shavonne Walker

shavonne.walker@salisburypost.com

Exactly a year ago, Salisbury Po- lice Chief Rory Collins announced the department would open a substation in the West End community. The substation would house an officer who would be available twice a week at Hall’s Gym on West Bank Street.

The substation received a less-than-enthusiastic reception from some in the community and officially opened in mid-August. Now just a few weeks shy of a year in place, the police department closed it, saying the substation only received three visitors since its inception.

Collins said it was implemented after he received several requests from citizens from the West End community to do so.

“The requests came with a plea to have a place, in their community, where they could go to talk with a police officer, in person, to discuss concerns about their neighborhood,” Collins said.

Upon implementing the substation, Collins said, flyers were passed out in the community and a story ran in the Salisbury Post.

Although very few residents stopped by the substation, Collins said, he elected to leave it in place for a year in the hopes attendance would increase.

Collins said he felt the community relations officer, Reuben Ijames, could be more effective by “leaving the substation and patrolling throughout the neighborhood, and actively meeting citizens, rather than waiting for them to come into the office.”

Of the West End residents the Post spoke with, street patrol is exactly what they want to see.

“I didn’t think they needed it,” said resident Calvin Turner.

“Nobody goes over there,” he added.

Turner said all the substation did was take an officer off the street and from their duty.

“It was a good idea at one time, but then nobody wanted to go because people were scared to talk,” Turner said.

He said he’d rather see an officer visible in the community and patrolling the streets.

Community activist Dee Dee Wright said it was good the substation was closed. Wright was vocal from the beginning that of- ficers should be visible and not stuck inside a building. She has not changed her position and still feels as though officers should be seen patrolling the streets.

“I’ve always said I want the police to police. The more who are visible, the less we will have crime,” she said.

Wright said she never understood the objective of placing a substation in the West End community.

“If it’s a high crime area, wouldn’t it be better to have someone out on the streets?” Wright asked.

She said it’s not that she thought the substation was doomed from the beginning, but she thought it “wasn’t workable.”

“There was no strategy by putting it there. If it was to deter crime, crime was not in Hall’s Gym, it was happening out on the streets,” Wright said.

Wright said she’s not anti-police and in fact has routinely asked the Salisbury City Council to put more funds into police and fire departments. She said the men and women of these two agencies risk their lives and should be well paid.

She just believes there was no strategy for the substation and no data collected to determine why it didn’t work.

“I don’t want to beat up on the chief but when you are looking at crime in a high crime area, you need to be able to have a strategy,” Wright said.

Mae Carroll, who is a member of West End Pride group and head of the J.C. Price American Legion, located in the West End, said she was a proponent of the substation from the beginning.

Her opinion of the substation has changed in the year since it’s been around.

Carroll said West End community relations officer Reuben Ijames informed the West End Pride group the substation would be closing.

She said she’s not that surprised it didn’t work, but believes it could’ve worked at another location.

Carroll explained a lot of the elderly people in the community would not normally have a reason to go into gym. She said it would be apparent to others that the people who did go into the gym were merely there to talk to police. Carroll said there is still a stigma that if you talk to police then you’re considered a “snitch.”

She was happy with a substation, but just unhappy with the location.

Carroll said it would’ve been great to have had more community input prior to implementing the substation, specifically about the location.

Carroll said she’s long suggested a community advisory group, which, if it had been in place, could’ve given input about the substation and other issues in the West End.

Chief Collins said officer Ijames will still heavily serve within the West End community. In addition to Ijames, the area will be heavily patrolled by three officers per patrol shift and officers who serve on the Street Crimes Unit.

Contact Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.

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