07/25/12 — Community, city officials meet on violence

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Community, city officials meet on violence

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on July 25, 2012 2:09 PM

More than 70 people were on hand at the city's meeting on community violence Tuesday evening at Goldsboro Chapel Free Will Baptist Church, where Goldsboro officials talked about what they are doing to help curb violence in the city and listened to suggestions from citizens.

City Manager Scott Stevens moderated the meeting, which included among its attendees nearly all of the City Council and more than a dozen city employees from the Goldsboro Police, Parks and Recreation and other city departments.

Mayor Al King could not attend the meeting due to a family emergency and Police Chief Jeff Stewart was out of town. Stevens admitted publicly Stewart's absence was his fault as he had arranged the scheduling of the meeting, which was born out of discussions at a City Council meeting in June.

Parks and Recreation Director Scott Barnard addressed the crowd, plugging programs his department offers and giving insight to the Parks and Recreation master plan, which includes a newly rebuilt W.A. Foster Recreation Center -- something those gathered said they were interested in.

The City Council has approved funds for the design phase of the rebuild, but is still in the market for a suitable place to put the new center, which would still remain in close proximity to the building's current location.

Barnard said the master planning process was still in progress and that there were two meetings scheduled during which his department would be looking for input. Both will be Aug. 1, with the first at noon at the center at Day Circle and the second at 5:45 p.m. at St. Stephens Episcopal Church on James Street.

Maj. Jay Memmelaar with the Police Department also shared crime statistics with those gathered which showed that while violent crime levels in the city seemed elevated, the city was still on pace to have one of its safest years in recent memory.

Still, Memmelaar and Stevens said that even one violent crime in the city was too many and offered the floor up to citizens to offer suggestions for the city to follow.

There was an immediate call for the city to build a facility in the "black area" of Goldsboro to show citizens that the city wants to help the children who live in that area.

The conversation splintered somewhat, however, when Richard Taylor, who was a main factor in a meeting June 29, began discussing the school system, noting that no representatives from the Wayne County Board of Education were present.

Two Wayne County commissioners were at the meeting, but Taylor began questioning the relevance of the education students receive in conventional schools, adding that trade programs had migrated to Wayne Community College where it was more costly for students to get a vocational education.

District 4 City Councilman the Rev. Charles Williams suggested Taylor should take his presentation to the school board. Williams said the members there could give him the results he was looking for, while the city's involvement in the school system is extremely limited.

Taylor was incensed, however, and said the city government should be concerned about whatever affects the community. He then turned on Williams personally, saying that, although he had represented District 4 for four terms, a neighbor of his told him that in his 20 years in the district he didn't even know if he was "black or white."

"You need to be more vocal," Taylor said to Williams, continuing his comments as he left the podium to thunderous applause.

Alicia Goldsby spoke next, asking the city to invest more into preventative measures in the city, while another suggestion was simple: hold a gun buyback program to get guns off the streets.

A retired police officer said the answer was to hire more black police officers who could build up better relationships with the black community.

Other police suggestions were that they were often in the right place but at the wrong time to catch criminals and that police substations in heavy crime areas could help deter illegal acts.

Another idea that has been voiced several times in recent meetings was one for a curfew, one among a handful that Stevens said would be easy to implement.

"A curfew is feasible," he said after the meeting, counting the gun buyback program among other worthy ideas shared.

Stevens said the city would consider other ideas, as well, and hoped that officials would be able to report back on the feasibility of the suggestions within a month.