Williamston Needs Community Help To Police The Streets - WSPA.com

Williamston Needs Community Help To Police The Streets

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Jan Washington is back home in Williamston to care for her bedridden mother in her home on Brown Street.  She lives like a nurse but, because of the gunfire nearby, she talks like Clint Eastwood.

"Like I told them, put the bullet right here," Washington said with a finger pressed to her forehead.

It isn't just brave talk.  Jan hears the shots right in front of her house.  She heard several shots Monday night.

"I heard shots. I heard 5 gunshots," she said.

Washington's neighbors told a similar story.  Regular gunfire, sometimes shots heard more than once a day.  Like Washington, they said they can't count on the police or the local government to keep them safe.

"Public safety is a tremendous concern for us and it always will be.  What we are trying to embrace is a new philosophy of community police," said mayor Mack Durham.

Durham made headlines shortly after taking office this year by firing the police chief and asking for deep cuts into the police budget.

Part of the "new philosophy" includes doing more with less.  The town cut the police budget by $150,000 and saved another $200,000 by turning dispatch operations over to Anderson County.  The police force, which had as many as 22 officers a few years ago, has 13 now.  The chief says he's about to hire a 14th.

To make up the difference, Williamston is counting on more community participation.  They're looking for volunteers and planning to bring in 5 reserve officers.  They'll count on more neighborhood watches and more tips to crimestoppers.

"What we ask the community to do is get involved and when they see crime happening they have to be willing to report they have to be willing in to write statements in order for us to get convictions," said police chief Tony Taylor.

 The key is community participation.  But that may be based largely on faith.  One neighbor on Brown Street said he wouldn't get involved in police work because he feared for his safety.

"If the community doesn't buy in we're going to have some serious problems," Durham said. 

But in a community where courage is currency, Jan Washington is ready to get involved.

"If I had seen it, I would have told.  Because I don't care who you are, you could be my brother, I'm going to tell on you," Washington said. 

Chief Taylor was unable to provide response times for his new department.  He said the times will be faster with dispatch operations centralized in Anderson County.

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