Police Address Downtown Issues with Residents
Thefts of items from vehicles are on the rise in Southern Pines since the beginning of the year, interim Police Chief Bob Temme says.
Temme told members of the downtown neighborhood community watch group on Wednesday that there have been 30 such incidents in town since Jan. 1. That represents more than a 50 percent increase in similar crimes over the same period in an average year.
"This is the No. 1 crime in Southern Pines," Temme said of larcenies and break-ins of motor vehicles. "I'd like to make it No. 2."
Temme said the current thefts are occurring between 4 p.m. and midnight. The thief or thieves, to this point, are targeting only cash.
"In almost every case it is a purse or a wallet left on the seat," Temme said.
He said entry to locked vehicles typically is made by breaking a window with a rock.
All residents are urged to lock their vehicles and not leave valuables in plain view. If valuables must be left in a vehicle, owners are encouraged to lock them in the trunk.
When looking at total incidents, Temme also told residents that over the past 60 days there have been about 30 crimes committed in the downtown area, roughly the area from Bennett to Ridge streets and Maine and Morganton.
"Nothing is really grabbing us as an epidemic," Temme said.
When asked if crime was up, or if residents were just becoming more aware of it, Temme said it was the latter.
"You are being notified more," Temme said. "Crime has gone down; you just know more about it."
Temme also asked residents for feedback on newspaper hawkers downtown. He said he had gotten feedback from downtown business owners that the independent contractors were "not good for business."
Temme said the department would proceed cautiously when addressing the issue.
Trash in the Downtown Park was another topic discussed during the meeting.
Robert Reeve, director of the town Parks and Recreation Department, said that the issue has come up before. Currently, the park is checked by a member of the building and grounds daily from Monday to Friday and once on the weekend from April to Thanksgiving.
He said one idea that has worked in the past to help keep the park clean is to have a group of residents "adopt the park" and be responsible for regular upkeep, like collecting trash.
Reeve said there was a group of residents who had done that with the Downtown Park, but the group "just disappeared over the last year.
Reeve said he didn't want to put more signs in the park or hover over park users, which could create negative perspectives.
Temme offered the idea of a partnership with Teen Court, in which those who are found guilty would be sentenced to pick up trash in the Downtown Park as part of their community service.
The idea was well-received by residents.
Contact Tom Embrey at (910) 693-2484 or tembrey@ thepilot.com.
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