Local News

Rocky Mount City Council, Police Chief to Discuss Rise in Violent Crime

Posted January 27, 2008 7:25 p.m. EST
Updated January 28, 2008 8:15 p.m. EST

— Lowering the violent crime rate will be the focus of a meeting Monday afternoon between Rocky Mount Police Chief John Manley and the City Council.

So far this month, three people have been slain in the city.

Rocky Mount had 14 homicides in 2007, the most in 12 years – and two fewer than the city's record. Several of those were high-profile cases, and one remains unsolved.

"It was a total surprise to all of us," Rocky Mount Councilman W.B. Bullock said.

One of the recent homicides happened just a few blocks from Bullock's home.

Shots were fired into a house at 2805 Pelham Road shortly before 8:30 p.m. on Jan. 12, police said. One stray bullet hit and killed 27-month-old Jamir Whitaker.

"Not only is it heartbreaking, but it makes you sick to realize that people have no more respect for one another than this," Bullock said.

Another recent crime was discovered at 1247 Compass Creek Drive. The bodies of Leona Johnson, 50, and her roommate, Deborah Scriven, 44, were found on Dec. 21.

Police are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in that case.

Most violent crimes, police said, are the result of gangs and drugs. Bullock said he thinks expanding outreach efforts to help keep teens out of trouble would help curb the violence. 

"Instead of having an argument and pulling a gun and shooting someone, we have got to teach these kids this is not the way," he said.

Bullock is also in favor of increasing the number of police on patrol.

"Everywhere we can have a presence of an officer and a vehicle, I think will help us," he said.

Manley said fighting crime needs to be a community-wide effort.

It is important "to encourage citizens to report crime when they see it, not to sit back and think someone else is going to do it, or not take responsibility for problems in the neighborhood,” he said.

Manley also told WRAL that extra measures were being taken to prevent violence, such as putting more officers on the streets. Last year, the police department confiscated more than 200 handguns.