City, police begin long-term West End project with survey

Published 12:01 am Friday, June 10, 2022

Elisabeth Strillacci

SALISBURY — The city — including government officials, parks and recreation, and police, with the assistance of IDEA Analytics — is in the beginning stages of a long-term West End project, aimed at getting a deeper understanding of community needs and developing ongoing plans to meet those needs.

Formally titled the West End Salisbury Transformed Empowered Neighborhood Development, the project is funded by an $800,000 Byrne Justice Innovation Program Grant. The project seeks to use community-led initiatives to help revitalize the 1.21-square-mile neighborhood and address its crime concerns.

The project kicked off Tuesday with two days of surveys covering the entire West End neighborhood, and the surveys were of two types. One was a set of questions residents were asked to answer anonymously using a QR code on a flyer, and the other was a physical survey of the neighborhood itself.

Lieutenant PJ Smith, who helped oversee the people conducting the survey and handing out flyers, explained there were five teams of two, with representatives from Parks and Recreation, city staff, police staff, NAACP members and staff from IDEA.

“The surveys are to help identify where we need to begin to work on things,” said Smith. “And it will give us an idea which things may be more beneficial than others.” For instance, would new sidewalks and roadways improve neighborhood pride? Would more recreation options for kids and teens address too much free time, help keep kids safely occupied?

“Criminal law enforcement approach is not always the best,” he said. “And we’re not looking for a quick fix. We’re looking for a long-term approach, something that can be maintained.”

In the physical survey of properties, Smith said parcels would be determined as good, fair, or needs a lot of improvement, and detailed information was noted.

He said residents were “very receptive, they came out of their houses and interacted with the people there, and seemed happy to see them and happy about what they were doing.”

Jason Walker, an IDEA Analytics staff member and one of the people who designed the written survey for residents, said he is excited about where the project could lead and impressed that a small town like Salisbury is taking the lead.

Questions Walker included on the survey, after identifying information such as West End residency, age, education, and moderately identifying information, included whether or not the person has struggled to make rent or mortgage payments, what services they either do not have or don’t work, such as electricity or internet, do they have a pest problem, if people in the neighborhood take care of their property, if they are aware of any drug or alcohol use in their areas, how safe do they feel in the neighborhood, and if they had to move, how much would they miss their neighborhood.

He also asked if the person thought economic conditions will be better or worse in this neighborhood in a year, and the resident was asked to rank services they believe the community would most benefit from: financial assistance, shelter, transportation, healthcare, clothing, child care, food, education, or employment.

“This is very much the starting point,” said Smith. “We are gathering information to help us decide, as noted, where to begin first, and with what. But this is a long-term effort, and our hope is it will create long-term change.”