12/01/17 — Community talks crime, progress

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Community talks crime, progress

By Ethan Smith
Published in News on December 1, 2017 5:50 AM

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Goldsboro Police Chief listens and responds to community concerns at a forum held Thursday night at Rebuilding Broken Places.

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City Manager Scott Stevens discusses various new happenings in the city at a community forum Thursday night.

Goldsboro Police Chief Mike West, City Manager Scott Stevens and other city officials were on hand at a community forum Thursday night at Rebuilding Broken Places to discuss police operations and new city developments.

West opened the forum after being introduced by organizer Mark Colebrook with Operation Unite Goldsboro by discussing the crime rate, manpower in the department, community policing efforts and how technology is aiding police in solving crimes.

He said the department is sitting at 14 vacancies and has an upcoming job fair Dec. 6 at the W.A. Foster Center.

The Crime Prevention Unit has been rebranded to be Community Police Services, which now has several other subsets of the department rolled into it.

Sgt. Michael Sweet has also been moved into an internal affairs position alongside his responsibility as the Crime Scene Unit supervisor. This will mean he can track complaints made against officers, among other things, which West said will be made available to the public.

There will be a new crime reporting system activated next week, which will change how the department tracks crime.

West said the current system can make Goldsboro's crime rate seem higher than it actually is, due to the age of the software and how it forces officers to report crimes.

"With it being an older system it forces us to report crimes the way we did four or five years ago, not the way you need to report them now," West said. "An example would be, if I've got a violent assault, and it's one incident but it's got four victims of that assault, it's counted four times, not one time. If I've got one vehicle break-in, and property that's in the vehicle belongs to four people, it's not one vehicle breaking and entering, it's counted as four."

West also informed attendees about Tsunami cameras, ShotSpotter, an in-house State Bureau of Investigation agent who has been at the department for about two months, and said all of these things have helped police solve more crimes lately.

Marilyn Wagner spoke about the department's efforts to receive accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

She said the agency is nearly four months into the 36 month process.

Some of the less than 20 people in attendance then questioned West on the department's efforts to ensure more diversity within the agency and spoke at length about the promotion process.

Many wanted to know how promotions were done, and said they were disappointed to see there were no minorities promoted during the most recent round of promotions.

West explained officers from outside nearby agencies were brought in and had very little, if any, interaction with local law enforcement outside of those being promoted.

He also said the department is going to make the promotion application process clearer. Right now officers apply for a rank, but they do not know what job they are applying for necessarily. West said that will change, and he hopes that more people will apply when they know what they are going for.

Community members recommended instituting more community involvement in the promotion process for all officers, and said that citizens should be allowed on the review board for promotions.

West agreed that the promotional process needed to change, and said he had citizens on the review board for his promotion to chief.

"I've said it to Scott (Stevens) before, if we're ever going to do anything different, now is the time to do it," West said.

This conversation included bits on how the department recruits.

Police pay was also discussed, and West said the starting salary was comparable to agencies the size of the Goldsboro Police Department. West and Wagner also discussed incentives to aid in retention of officers, including pay increases based on education and experience and take home cars.

Stevens then gave an update about the goings-on of the city government, speaking on new developments downtown and disaster recovery.

He opened by telling the community to be mindful of how they talk about Goldsboro, because they never know who is listening to their conversation.

"I never want to pass up an opportunity to ask a group to speak well of the community," Stevens said. "What you tell your friends and neighbors matters. I hope that you think Goldsboro is a good place. It's not perfect, there are things we need to work on, but people are always listening to you."

Stevens then discussed various economic developments, including investment in downtown and a new multi-sports complex being developed off of Oak Forest Road.

He provided updates on efforts to bring Wi-Fi to public parks, the renovation of the old W.A. Foster Center and the installation of new water meters in the city.

Stevens, as well as Community Relations Director Shycole Simpson-Carter, also discussed the city's progress after Hurricane Matthew in October 2016.

Stevens said about 400 structures were put underwater by the hurricane and its flooding, most of them homes, and that 200-some homes had still not been repaired after the natural disaster.

Simpson-Carter also spoke before the forum broke into small focus groups on various issues.

Other community forums have been organized by Operation Unite Goldsboro earlier this year, and there are plans for more next year.