Salisbury gets grant to help alleviate crime in West End neighborhood
After a shooting during a high school basketball tournament at Catawba College last week, police, education and civic leaders joined together at a news conference in Salisbury to discuss the incident — and a way forward.
This week, the city is planning for a similar effort to help a neighborhood nearby. An $800,000 grant already in the works from the Department of Justice will be used to bolster community-led efforts in the West End neighborhood, according to Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes.
“Catawba was a problem so we needed to have the community involved with us to resolve those issues,” Stokes said. “West End has, unfortunately, long-term crime problems that are related to community issues such as social problems, poverty, underachievement in school, what have you.”
City officials say the 1.2 square mile neighborhood has persistent housing issues and poverty levels as high as 36%. Stokes said the issues can’t be resolved by police alone, and that’s where the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program Grant comes in.
“That’s not necessarily a police problem,” Stokes said. “We’re dealing with the crime from the enforcement side and we want everyone to be safe. We want the whole community to be safe. Residents, visitors and particularly those folks who live in the West End because they’re more vulnerable to crime victimization. So if we get them involved with us in solving the problems, we’re more likely to succeed.”
Roy Dennis is the pastor of Gethsemane Baptist Church in West End. He’s also a former U.S. Army logistics officer who was awarded the Bronze Star for his service in Saudi Arabia during the 1991 Gulf War. Dennis said the project involves an "all hands" approach with a violence intervention team, building up recreational spaces and developing a community group to spearhead efforts.
“Once we get the organization and get everything set in place, then that input from that team will help where we need to go for the low-hanging fruit,” he said.
Grant funds are expected over the coming months and a project coordinator will be appointed to start surveying neighbors.
“Salisbury’s a great community with a lot of people who are really concerned and coming together,” Dennis said. “We care.”