Kinston officials, business owners tout growth despite nagging c - WSPA.com

Kinston officials, business owners tout growth despite nagging crime

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KINSTON, N.C. -  The SBI says crime is down in Lenoir County. But in the city limits of Kinston, it's a different story.

Just this week alone, there have been two shootings.

And it could be impacting the effort to attract businesses to the area.
     
People 9 On Your Side spoke with said anytime a shooting happens in the area, it's a concern.
     
But Lenoir County Economic Development Director Mark Pope says when businesses are looking to expand, crime is only one of things they look at.

"It does not help the community in any form or fashion,” said Chris Maroules, Christopher's owner. “But you're going to have crime. You see it all over the country."

Maroules is the owner of Christopher's in Kinston, a staple in the area for more than 40 years.

He says even with the recent shootings, Kinston business continues to expand. And he says there's been more of a police presence in the area.

"With the growth that that we're having in downtown Kinston, I think we're being patrolled more and there's a lot more awareness of things that are going on," he said.

Lerain Tolston opened Queen Street Deli a little over two years ago. She says she feels safe, but knows people in Kinston are aware of crime.

"People are wary of coming to the deli at night and parking in the front,” said Lerain Tolston, Queen Street Deli owner. “We always tell them to go to the back door. There's more light."

Crime is one thing businesses looking to expand do ask about.

"We do have to address them when we're asked those questions and show them where crime rates have been, and where we're going," said Lenoir County Economic Development Director Mark Pope.

Pope says despite crime, Kinston continues to recover well from the recession.

"We're seeing the downtown area grow,” he said. “We've got a lot of folks that are pitching in."

Since 2010, the number of homes sold have continued to increase in the county, a trend Pope attributes to more jobs opening up.

"People are seeing Kinston as a changing area. So I'm really excited about what's going on," added Pope.

And for Maroules, whose business has served four generations of people, the news is welcomed.

"Crime is something that doesn't affect that with us,” said Maroules. “You know, we feed everybody from the community, all walks of life. And we've been blessed."

Maroules says since the downtown has really started to grow, he's seen about 50 more people in his business every week.
     
Pope also told that businesses that chose not to expand in Lenoir County haven't cited crime as the reason.
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