Citizens, police discuss community issues

  • Friday, August 15, 2014

Jim Tatum/Journal Scene At the town-hall style meeting, residents pointed toward problem areas in the community as officers explained their approach to policing.


Nearly two dozen people ignored turbulent weather to attend a special town hall-style meeting at Doty Field Aug. 12.

The meeting, hosted by the Community Resource Center in Summerville, was a chance for area citizens to meet with members of the Summerville Police Department to ask questions, discuss issues, and learn about strategies and actions to curb crime and stop violence in their communities, especially the Brownsville, Germantown, Palmetto Park, and Robynwyn neighborhoods.

The meeting was the third such forum hosted by the Community Resource Center, CRC Executive Director Louis Smith said.

The idea, Smith said, was to create and provide a neutral forum where everyone could feel comfortable and civil but candid discussion could take place.

SPD Assistant Chief Maj. Frank Nigro and Lt. D.P. Wright were on hand to field questions and give information as to what the police department does and is able to do both in active law enforcement efforts and in assisting with setting up and maintaining effective community watch and crime prevention programs.

Wright noted that law enforcement does try to maintain a presence throughout the town and delegates resources to give extra attention to problem areas.

“We do a lot people may not see,” Wright said. “We are actively doing foot patrols at night but you don’t know it unless you’re up and out at 2 in the morning.”

The foot patrols are effective because they are unexpected; officers often walk up on people who may be involved in criminal activity, Wright said.

Wright also said that every incident, every lead, every rumor, any bit of information is followed up; there are officers who actually spend time on social media and have made arrests from information found there.

Ultimately, everyone agreed that it all comes down to community involvement. The police must have the help of the community and the community must feel comfortable working with the police.

“We need your help – if no one contacts us, we won’t know about it,” Wright said.

Most of all, the community needs to reach out to its youth.

“We have lost too many of our children to this senseless violence,” Smith said. “We have to put a stop to it.”

In fact, movements are out there to do just that, said Rev. Thomas Dixon, founder of local civil rights group The Coalition, and Tereze Legare of the South Carolina Rhinos Car Club.

The car club works to reverse stereotyping and profiling by providing positive role models and by working to show everyone, youth, the community, the police, the public, that young black men who drive nice cars are not all criminals.

“We have a car show, what we call a drive through, as opposed to a drive by,” Legare said. “A kid might ask if you got that car by dealing drugs or some other criminal activity, and I tell them no, I have an education, I have a good full-time job – and you can do the same thing and have these things if you get an education and you work. Education is the key.”

For some reason, the youth don’t seem to be receiving that message in school, at least not nearly as effectively, both Legare and Dixon said.

Smith and CRC President/CEO Janie Colleton said they believed the meeting to be a success. Smith called it a “very positive, proactive step” in the process of helping the people take back their communities.

“We are very pleased with the job the Summerville Police Department is doing,” Smith said. “But they need our help. Two things the police are not: they are not social workers and they cannot raise the children – that’s up to the parents.”

Colleton said she was very pleased with the event, with the participation of those who attended and especially with Nigro and Wright.

She also said she hoped the turnout would be stronger.

“We need support,” Colleton said. “We need to get the parents more involved – where are the parents? Where are the pastors and the churches? Everyone should be here.”

“We need more support,” she added. “We can’t fight by ourselves.”

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