Local News

'Street Engagement Team' Battles Rocky Mount's Crime

Posted September 5, 2007 5:39 p.m. EDT
Updated September 5, 2007 10:08 p.m. EDT

— The Rocky Mount Police Department has formed a “Street Engagement Team” to put more cops on the streets in response to a rise in violent crime, officials announced.

Five people were shot, one of them fatally, last month inside a Rocky Mount night club. Two days later, another man was murdered in retaliation. Police said it was all tied to a turf war.

The recent killings made 11 murders in Rocky Mount this year, the most in one year since 1999 and five short of the record.

“I'm not saying we've got a rise in gang activity. What I'm saying is there is a rise in the violent crime associated with different groups,” said Capt. J. Wayne Sears. “Anytime there is a rise in violent crime, our citizens are concerned. We're concerned for them, and that's our responsibility.”

At least 10 additional officers per shift, from various divisions, will patrol problem areas as part of the “Street Engagement Team.” The officers will be more visible and proactive, officials said. They won’t be tied to answering other service calls.

In its first week, the team arrested 16 people and confiscated drugs, at least six guns and other weapons.

“It’s hard to commit a crime when a policeman is standing there looking at you,” Sears said.

Rocky Mount took similar steps in January after several murders happened in a row. Sears said it helped reduce violent crime for several months.

“We've seen a spike back up, so we've gone back and re-addressed it just like we did,” he said.

Police officials said the team will remain on the street until the violence is under control. Most of the violent crime has been concentrated in isolated areas around the city, authorities said.

The team does most of its work on overnight shifts.