NEWBERRY – Working together to take back their community was the shared goal of those who attended last week’s community meeting at West End Baptist Church hosted by the Newberry Police Department.
The purpose of the meetings, held quarterly, is to discuss issues affecting a neighborhood and work together to come up with solutions,” said Police Chief Roy McClurkin.
“Not only in this area,” McClurkin said of the West End, “But we have the same issues going on in and out of the county.”
Working together as law enforcement, McClurkin said they had partnered with the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office to solve issues within the county. However, McClurkin said he was also relying on the community to help him solve crime.
“I have 31 officers, but if I can get the 10,000 people in the city to partner with me, then we can bridge that gap,” McClurkin said.
Members of the community shared their concerns about when cameras would be placed in certain areas throughout the West End in areas where there had been issues. McClurkin said that the plans to do that have been moving forward and locations for cameras had been identified.
The community also discussed working together to begin a neighborhood crime watch.
McClurkin said it was frustrating not only to him, but to his officers when there was a crime committed and they could not get anyone to come forward with information.
“We need the entire community involved in helping us combat issues,” he said.
Another concern from the community were the types of tenants that were put into rental homes in the area that seemed to be causing issues. City Manager Matt DeWitt said the recent ordinance, passed by City Council, will do a better job of holding property owners accountable for who rents/visits their homes.
“It creates a three-strike policy for landlords,” DeWitt said. “If law enforcement comes to a residence three separate times and they make three separate charges during the same calendar year, the landlord will not be able to rent that property for one year from the last date of offense.”
Several things have been put in place as a way for positive outreach within the community, according to residents, such as a new youth program that has been meeting every Sunday in Willowbrook Park at 2 p.m. The program, hosted by Pastor Karen O’Donald is through Moving Forward Ministries and was a way to give a younger generation something positive to do and look forward to.
O’Donald said they plan to be in Willowbrook Park every Sunday at 2 p.m. unless the park was being rented out. This past Sunday the group had a short praise and worship service and then shared a time of fellowship over a meal, which O’Danald said was at no cost to those who attended.
More information on Moving Forward Ministries can be found on their Facebook page.
DeWitt said as another form of positive outreach, the city’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism department began a new program this past summer of the RecMobile that traveled to city parks providing games, constructive activities and entertainment for children and young adults.
“It was one of the ways we felt we could use some of our resources and help better the community,” DeWitt said.
While loitering was also a question for the police department, one community member offered her mindset that if she saw “loitering” outside of her home on the street corner, she used it as the chance to introduce herself to them and offer them a snack or soda as a way to create a chance for positive community interaction.
“We have to be a part of the solution,” she said.
McClurkin said the police department plans to hold these community meetings on a quarterly basis, with the next meeting planned to take place on April 19. The venue has not yet been determined for that meeting, but will be announced in advance of the meeting.