“Express, Educate and Connect for a Safer Salisbury” thinks of ways to increase public safety

Published 12:08 am Saturday, June 8, 2024

SALISBURY— The Salisbury Human Relations Commission held a public safety roundtable meeting entitled “Express, Educate and Connect for a Safer Salisbury” at Hood Theological Seminary Aymer Center on June 6. 

The HRC partnered with the police advisory board and the Salisbury Youth Council in order cast a wide net of people to show up. 

“Our goal for this evening is to hold a community forum on public safety that, in partnership with the appropriate community agencies, lead us to tangible and sustainable solutions,” HRC Chair Christina Rary said.

Former Salisbury Deputy Police Chief and current Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes was the guest speaker for the event and he discussed how Madison, with their population of over 250,000, tackles crime. 

Barnes talked about the first murder he ever worked on and how “everyone” is responsible when violent crimes occur. Barnes said Madison has a Madison Addiction Recovery Initiative (MARI) to help addicts in need that goes against the strict arresting policy of the 1980s and ’90s. Barnes listed his keys to success as community policing, problem-oriented policing, focused deterrence, stratified policing and a public health approach.

After Barnes finished speaking, the audience broke up into groups to answer three questions: What are some of the root causes of violence in our community? What are some common barriers that prevent community members from getting involved in violence prevention organizations and efforts? How can we address them (root causes) collaboratively?

Once a few minutes had passed, every group took turns to share what they came up with. Poverty, lack of resources and education, and mental health were seen as the root causes for violence. Common barriers were fear and not being aware of what is going within someone’s neighborhood. On how to address these causes, trust, community meetings, dialogue between residents, more youth involvement, and more funding were brought up as answers.

“It was really interesting and exciting to see the synergy around the room. Also, reflecting and knowing this is the start of the work, it is not the end of the work. These conversations, the ideas that we’re getting from the community, we have to take that into consideration for assisting in a long-term plan to make sure safety in our community is a priority,” Rary said.

Rary explained towards the end of the night that there will be an “unofficial taskforce” made up of the police department, city staff, HRC, police advisory board and the Salisbury Youth Council to develop a plan to improve public safety partially based on what was considered during the meeting.

Salisbury Police Chief Patrick “P.J.” Smith was enthusiastic with what he saw and heard, especially with how eager residents are to start putting in effort to accomplish their objectives.

“The thing that stood out to me the most and what I’m the biggest fan of, I think the last group said, ‘Action, I’m ready to take action.’ We have, in little ways in our department, started to take action, but it takes small steps and small pieces to lead to big results,” Smith said.

Carolina Rodriguez is a freshman at North Rowan High School and a member of the Salisbury Youth Council. One of the youngest to attend the roundtable event, Rodriguez participated because she wanted to get out of her “comfort zone” and interact with people she’s never met before. 

“I think it’s very important for young people to be involved in this type of stuff. They get to see different aspects of our type of community that we have, they get to meet new people and instead of being on the phone all day, social media, they get to experience the real world,” Rodriguez said.