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Rocky Mount Mayor: Crime Prevention a Focus in 2008

A rise in violent crime and high-profile homicides left Rocky Mount on edge in 2007. The city's new mayor wants to make curbing crime more of a focus for the city in 2008.

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ROCKY MOUNT, N.C. — Rocky Mount's newly elected mayor said Wednesday curbing crime will be more of a focus for the city in 2008, following a year in which violent crime left the community on edge.

"I think it's going to be a community effort," Mayor David Combs said. "It's not just going to be what the police can do and what the city can do.

The city had 14 homicides in 20007, the most in 12 years – and two less than the city's record. Several were high-profile cases, one of which remains unsolved.

Police investigated numerous shootings, many gang-related, some at local clubs.

"There are some things the police department has done, certainly, as they've focused more on gang activity," Combs said. "I think the clubs are certainly something we're trying to look at."

Combs, a lifelong Rocky Mount resident and former City Council member who took office at the end of December, said the city is also hiring more police officers and is looking at closing clubs where violence has repeatedly been a problem.

Other possibilities include adding more security around areas where violence is a problem and public surveillance cameras.

Combs said they the city also plans to work closely with the police department to find out what other resources they need.

The Rocky Mount United Way also recently applied for a grant to build a new program that director Ginny Mohrbutter said would educate the public more on gang prevention and what is happening in the community.

The United Way felt the direct impact of violent crime last year when its two Meals on Wheels workers were stabbed at a local church while trying to help a passer-by. One was killed; the other is still recovering from her injuries.

"From that, we want to make our community stronger," Mohrbutter said. "We want to find solutions."

Combs said he hopes more focus from all sides will help bring a safer new year.


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