10/22/12 — City takes action against violence

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City takes action against violence

By John Joyce
Published in News on October 22, 2012 1:46 PM

The Goldsboro Police Department, newly realigned and bolstered by an additional $100,000 for its new community policing program, is taking steps to combat the increasing rate of violent crime in the city.

The department has adopted some of the anti-crime measures that have proven successful over the past two decades in the city of High Point.

"It's pretty much the High Point model with a Goldsboro twist," said Goldsboro Police Chief Jeff Stewart.

Since April 15, there have been a dozen murders on the streets of Goldsboro, and more than 100 documented cases of shootings and armed robberies have been recorded since the first of the year.

"It seems like things are worse this year. Maybe they are and maybe they aren't," said City Manager Scott Stevens.

Still, the goal, said Stevens, is reducing the violence.

Stevens said that the City Council, with the advisement of the police department and in response to the concerns of the community, agreed to free up money to pay for the new anti-crime initiatives.

The money, $20,000 for overtime and a mobile command center, along with $67,000 for a new sergeant position and funding for the purchase of 13 new patrol cars to replace those 10 or 15-years-old, has been allocated.

The overtime budget and the newly created sergeant's position will be evaluated at the end of the calendar year, and a decision will be made whether to proceed.

The initiative is designed to put officers and citizens back in touch with one another in the hopes of building a trusting relationship.

Stewart explained that the purpose of the program is to make the numbers more manageable for the department.

"There are 37,000 people that live in the city of Goldsboro. It's impossible to watch 37,000 people, but due to people's criminal activity and what they do, you can watch the ones that are doing the violent crimes," said Stewart.

Since Sept. 1, officers have been assigned to quadrants within the six departments' already existing patrol zones.

Each shift has an officer, in a designated section of his or her zone, who is working to engage the residents and to have a greater visibility.

Stewart cautioned that progress has been slow, but he cited three recent call-ins, made anonymously by concerned members of the community, and the arrests and confiscations of weapons and narcotics that each of those tips led to.

The mobile command center also is helping, he said. The converted SWAT van now serves as a mobile substation that is posted in areas throughout the city known to police as hotbeds of crime.

"We put two officers out there in the command center, other officers conduct foot patrols and bike patrols, shift officers come back there and use it as a mobile office," Stewart said.

Sgt. Theresa Chiero, formerly the commander of the investigations division now headed by Maj. Al King, has been tasked to fill the new sergeant's position in the role of community partnership coordinator.

Sgt. Chiero, along with community members and the district attorney's office, will be speaking to known criminals, on a voluntary basis, and telling them that authorities are cracking down.

The High Point model, the patrol zones, the mobile command center and Sgt. Chiero's new office are what the city and the chief believe will curb the current trend of violence in the city. But the biggest deterrent to crime remains the citizens' willingness to speak up, police and city officials said.

"As more information comes in, we're taking more criminals, weapons and drugs off the street," said Stewart. "We don't expect the citizens to take on the risk, but they can't live in fear, that increases the numbers of these crimes."