Grinding now done in Apex park, not between skateboarders and police
Posted August 1
Apex, N.C. — Reducing crime in Apex started with a simple conversation about solving a problem.
Until a year ago, skateboarders around town were viewed as scofflaws, racking up trespassing citations and disturbance complaints.
"In a skateboarder's mind, you see the sidewalk as a playground, you see a curb as an obstacle, you see a fire hydrant as something to jump over," Kenny Feliciano said.
"I'm not a criminal. I'm just a dude who likes to skateboard," said Oba Latortue, who has had his share of run-ins with police.
Apex police Capt. Jacques Gilbert had an epiphany last year while enforcing the town's laws on skateboarding.
"I got dispatched to a call – a disturbance – a young man in his driveway skateboarding," Gilbert recalled. "I pretty much told him he was violating one of our ordinances by skating in his own driveway and making a lot of noise. His response was the eye opener. He said, 'I can't skateboard in my driveway?' and I said, 'No sir, you can't,' and he said, 'Where am I supposed to go?' and I said, 'You need to figure it out.'"
With those last words rolling through his mind, Gilbert knew things would never change unless he took the first step.
"So, I turn around and went back to his house and just explained to him I want to help," he said. "That meeting led to more meetings with more skateboarders, and what we noticed was now there was a bridge between the youth and the police in town."
Both groups agreed the youths needed a place to skate.
"Obviously, we were skeptical," Feliciano said.
Working with the town of Apex, the Rodgers Family Skate Plaza, at 1290 Ambergate Station, became a reality one year ago. The 13,000-square-foot park, which is open 6 a.m. to midnight daily, is designed to mimic street skating.
Suddenly, skateboarding was no longer an issue in Apex.
"Since the skate park opened," Gilbert said, "skateboarding calls, trespassing, public disturbance calls have reduced 100 percent."
Meanwhile, the understanding between skateboarders and local police has increased more than 100 percent.
"I don't even think about cops as I used to," Feliciano said. "They say there are good cops and bad cops. I say, as long as there's an individual trying to create something positive for the community, there's nothing to hate. There's nothing to hate."
"Two people sat down together and tried to understand each other and broke down that wall called stereotypes, and when you do that, great things happen," Gilbert said.