Interim chief meets local residents

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Rocky Mount Interim Police Chief Willie Williams, left, talks with Marion Stoga on Tuesday during Chat with the Chief on the 1100 block of Niblick Drive.


Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Interim Police Chief Willie Williams began his series of Chat with the Chief events Tuesday on the 1100 block of Niblick Avenue, where 22-year-old Jahmel Montey Dales met his death on Dec. 20

A steady stream of residents from the quiet, middle-class neighborhood came to Rocky Mount’s mobile command center to meet the new interim chief and several of his officers and discuss what it will take to make the community safer.

Williams said he was pleasantly surprised at the reaction of many of the community members.

“I was somewhat surprised at the positive approach that most of them have had. They have been very open, but mostly positive. They talked about safety and said they feel safe, but wanted to come by and show support for the police department,” Williams said.

Marion Stoga, who lives on the 1300 block of Driver’s Circle, said she has lived in the neighborhood for about 10 years.

“We are glad to see him in the neighborhood so that everybody knows that we have feet on the ground here in this neighborhood. And that is what we need,” Stoga said.

However, Stoga said she also feels the community should play a larger role in crime prevention and in helping the police

“We have to have neighborhoods where eyes are open and they are willing to be part of the solution and not just hide behind the curtains,” Stoga said.

Stoga said she was not really concerned about the murder that took place in the neighborhood in December because she felt the murder was not a random act.

“You are going to have crime everywhere. But I feel this is a safe neighorhood because people are willing to know each other, pick up the phone and call and help these guys do their job,” Stoga said, as she pointed to the police officers standing outside the mobile command center.

Sheila Williams Cooke, who lives on the 1100 block of Niblick Drive, was walking her dog Chandler when she came to chat with the chief. Cooke said it was too early to form an accurate impression of the new chief but feels it is a positive step to see him involved in the community.

“It is hard to tell much about him now. We have just gotten started good. But I don’t think we should repeat the errors of the past as far as reporting crime statistics. Shooting at a house is not property damage. To me it is like teaching to the test. We get so wrapped up in the numbers we forget how to address the problem,” Cooke said.

However, Cooke also said she feels crime prevention is something the community should take part in.

“It starts with the neighborhood and people paying attention and starting to communicate with the police officers. We need to try and stay informed about what the police department is doing, but it takes our participation, too,” Cooke said.

Detective Sgt. Westlyn Seabreeze told the Telegram that people can also help by installing video recording systems to monitor their homes and businesses.

“We don’t have very many witnesses and in some cases, we don’t have any witnesses that come forward. Cameras are becoming less expensive as time goes on and the cameras could help us solve some of these crimes,” Seabreeze said.

As far as the Chat with the Chief concept, Seabreeze said it was all Williams’s idea.

“I think it is a very positive thing for us to become a part of the community and the community to become a part of us,” Williams said.

Williams said this is his fourth time serving in the role of police chief. After serving on the Rocky Mount police force for 25 years, Williams was recruited as the police chief in Petersburg, Va., where he served for three years.He then served as police chief in Wilson for six years before retiring in 2013. Since his “retirement,” Williams served at N.C. Central University before coming to Rocky Mount to serve as interim chief of the police department.

Williams said he is already impressed with the Rocky Mount Police Department.

“You cannot ask for a more professional police agency than the Rocky Mount Police Department. They are well-trained and highly educated and do a great job,” Williams said.

However, Williams said he will be willing to hand over the job when a permanent police chief is hired.

“I have absolutely no interest in becoming the permanent position. It is purely because I have been in this business a long, long time and it is time for someone else to carry the flag,” Williams said.

Chat with the Chief events are slated to continue on Wednesday. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, the Mobile Command Unit will be stationed in the 300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue. From 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, the Chat with the Chief event will continue on the 700 block of Branch Street.