Public forum weighs crime issues


Staff Writer

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Local residents and law enforcement officers joined together Tuesday for another special town hall meeting in Rocky Mount.

The Opportunities Industrialization Center at 402 East Virginia St. played host to this year’s second Project Diamond in the Rough forum. Created by local resident and military veteran Jabaris Walker,  it is aimed at letting local residents and officials the chance to raise questions and voice concerns about local crime to each other and to law enforcement.

Walker said planning for Tuesday’s event started in June, only a month after the first Diamond in the Rough forum, adding planning started because of support for the previous meeting. He said recent events in Virginia and tensions raised recently in Rocky Mount made Tuesday’s meeting even more important.

Rocky Mount Police Chief James Moore, Edgecombe County Sheriff Clee Atkinson and Nash County Chief Deputy Brandon Medina represented local law enforcement agencies at the forum. Along with addressing residents’ concerns, they also shared their own thoughts on what needs to be done to combat crime in the area.

Moore repeated a previous statement that battling crime in the area begins with addressing gun violence as a public health issue while Atkinson and Medina also echoed previous statements from their respective agencies about teaching local youth responsibility and addressing the region’s drug problem.

Local resident Samuel Battle said he thinks mentoring young people is critical in battling crime in the area.

“These kids don’t need to be thrown in jail on their first offense,” Battle said. “We’ve got to sit these kids down and make them think. It’s a sad sight when you read the paper and see you’re losing family to guns.”

Atkinson addressed Battle’s concerns about law enforcement talking to the area’s youth, stressing his agency is already working on programs to work with young people and keep them out of trouble.

“We are working with Edgecombe County schools on conflict resolution,” Atkinson said. “We have suggested that if students are suspended, they be sent to anger management before returning to school — and if that doesn’t work then maybe have them talk to us. We don’t want to fill the jails.”

Battle added that fighting crime in the area also means the Rocky Mount Police Department, Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office and Nash County Sheriff’s Office come together rather than be divided.

Other local residents attending the forum asked about curfews, resources for youth and other topics.

Tuesday’s meeting is likely the last forum for the foreseeable future, Walker said, but he added his efforts to unite the community will not end with the meetings.

“I”m thinking about going out twice a month to do community cleanups,” Walker said. “I want the community to come together and work to improve the city together.”

The first community cleanup is tentatively planned for Aug. 26 in the Hillsdale, Holly Street and Weeks-Armstrong areas, Walker said. The exact details of the cleanups are in the works and will be announced soon.