Cary leaders meet with residents to address town safety
Posted February 19, 2011 4:43 p.m. EST
Updated February 19, 2011 8:52 p.m. EST
Cary, N.C. — Town of Cary leaders and community members met Saturday morning to discuss growing safety concerns after a man held seven people hostage in a bank with what appeared to be a handgun on Feb. 10.
Devon Mitchell, 19, walked into the Wachovia on Green Level Church Road with a toboggan hat he told hostages and police was concealing a gun. Authorities later determined that Mitchell wasn't armed.
The same Wachovia location was robbed in December and a man was murdered at a nearby apartment complex in April.
Several residents expressed concerns about that complex, The Grove at Cary Park, where Mitchell also lived.
"The apartment community is very well aware that you guys are upset, thinking the majority of problems that happen in the area come from that complex," said Police Chief Pat Bazemore, but she said that perception is untrue.
She did say, however, that most crime in the area is drug-related.
Katrina Whitaker lives in The Grove at Cary Park.
"It's kind of hurtful because it was kind of like a stereotype because it made it seem like all people that are in poverty or living on low incomes have some mentality of wanting to do crime," she said.
Anthony Caggiano has lived in the neighborhood with his wife and three sons since 2006. He said drug activity at the complex is a concern.
"There's a lot of correlation between drug activity and other crimes committed," he said.
In the last 14 months, there were 38 burglaries, 49 larcenies, three robberies and three aggravated assaults in the Cary Park neighborhood, in the fast-growing western part of the town, police said.
"I think the sense in the neighborhood, certainly my neighborhood specifically, has become very tense in terms of whether we are really living in a safe place," said Cary Park resident Gloria Garver.
Residents asked to meet with police after the hostage standoff to discuss strategies for keeping the area safe. The meeting was held at 10 a.m. Saturday at Mills Park Middle School. More than 200 people attended.
"Cary is a safe place... but it doesn't feel safe if you're a victim or feel like you're going to be a victim," said Cary mayor Harold Weinbrecht.
Caggiano said he's glad that Cary police and town leaders took the time to hear area residents' concerns.
"We're expecting them to do their due diligence and be more proactive, and have a strategic plan (to address crime)," he said.
Some neighbors expressed concerns that police have no substation in the neighborhood, which affects response times and patrol presence. Cary plans to build a substation and fire station along Carpenter Fire Station Road that would serve the area. It's slated for completion in 2012.
Police encouraged residents to start a neighborhood watch program, but said they did not intend to reconsider the town's long-standing policy against gated communities.
"We want to be a community that embraces everyone. We're a friendly, welcoming community, so we have a policy against (gated communities)," said town councilwoman Jennifer Robinson.