FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — The Fayetteville Police Department has formed a special task force to stem a rising tide of gun violence, officials said Thursday.
Interim Police Chief Katherine Bryant quietly launched the 15-person task force in September after noticing an increase in gun-related police calls and in anticipation of a typical surge in crime during the holidays. She decided to go public with the effort following a recent series of violent crimes, including the shooting death of a Vietnam veteran who was well known in the community and a string of shootings at local convenience store.
"We are always concerned about crime (as police officers), and it is good when the community takes notice and gets concerned as well," Bryant said in a news conference.
Crime in Fayetteville is down 3 percent for the year, through November, but violent crimes are up 2 percent from 2011, she said.
"Overall, crime rates are holding steady, and while there's not cause for alarm, we don't find these numbers acceptable," she said. "In general, Fayetteville is a safe city. I think we do have some crime problems that we have to continue to address."
City Manager Ted Voorhees said it's difficult to pinpoint the reasons for the sudden spike in shootings.
"Why they exist, why all of a sudden a handful of incidents happen at the same time and create and extra level of fear, it's just not easy to know that," Voorhees said. "Solving crime is frustrating and challenging. There are many factors, and almost all of them are out of the control of the police department. It's a community problem. It's a social problem."
Toward that end, he said, he plans to pull together representatives from law enforcement, social services and education next year to analyze crime data and devise long-term solutions that go beyond arrests and prosecutions.
"The police department is talking today about their partnerships on the suppression side of things. A bigger question is what are we doing on prevention and intervention," he said. "What can we do in Fayetteville to step our game?"
Voorhees said he also is close to naming a permanent police chief, noting he has whittled the field to six and expects to bring a few finalists to town in the next few weeks.