Downtown Greenville Stepped-Up Police Patrols- How Are They Working?

Just how much do you know about the nightlife that takes place across eastern carolina?

For some areas across eastern carolina sunset marks the end of the day where dinner is followed by perhaps a little television before bed. For others its just the beginning of a night complete with music, spirits, and other forms of entertainment.

The backdrop changed for one area in particular following a drive-by shooting that changed the lives of the families and friends of two men caught in the path. Clayton Bauman ventured to one area in the east that is known both for its entertainment--as well as violence that has taken place there in the past.

Downtown Greenville during the day looks just like many other city streets. Eateries and boutiques cater to most tastes It's a relaxing atmosphere-with little rush to it, but as daylight begins to fade and traffic slows down for a few hours an entirely different scene takes shape- a faster, louder, more youthful one bedecked with neon lights and specials vying for your dollar.

It's a place that's seen its share of changes over the years, but one incident in particular would change everything for years to come.

It will be two years this summer since two men were gunned down during a drive by shooting outside The Other Place nightclub in downtown Greenville.

Andrew Kirby and Landon Blackley were killed in the gunfire. The suspect, James Richardson, is awaiting trial in Greenville. The city responded immediately--reshaping the police presence when nightlife is at its peak.

"Once we had the double homicide in downtown Greenville we decided to increase our presence down there. Part of that increase in presence was blocking off the streets, " said Sgt. Carlton Williams.

An 8 man unit is responsible for the downtown area. Thursday through Saturday though sees a jump to around 16 to 20 officers. 'Sup Dogs manager Chris Young is one of those people who appreciates the police uptick.

"We've got police all throughout downtown so it makes us feel more safe because any time alcohol is involved bad decisions can happen. So as long as they are here to keep it in order then it's perfectly fine for me," said Young.

Kevin Howard, who has been a DJ in the downtown area for 15 years sees both the upside and downside to the additional police.

"I feel like a lot of the actions that have been taken have been knee jerk reactions--blocking off this two block radius is closing traffic off which is supposed to keep drive -bys and different things--accidents to vehicles limited by the patrons. It definitely has done that, but you know on nights when the weather is bad, cold, rainy... when people used to get just dropped off and one person may have had to walk in the rain a couple blocks. Now everyone has to, and they are staying home which is hurting a lot of the businesses down here," said Howard.

"Some ask why we do it when it rains. Well, when it rains we still have to maintain consistency with our plan, and you know, I know that may cause some people a slight inconvenience--but that's not our intent. Our intent is to provide protection for the citizens of Greenville," said Sgt. Williams.

Most people we talked with say they do feel a strong sense of security.

"I mean, in some way or another it is good because then they don't have cars driving down the road when people are walking, and they are drunk and do stuff. Other times they could have cop cars at other places and they don't need to be here, all the way down here wasting their time," said Nathan Honstetter

"I feel safer because I feel like they are doing their job so, you know, it keeps the bad people away so I feel good cause I come down here every weekend," said Jessica Smith.

"I feel a lot safer. I feel like they have gotten a lot stricter which is bad for some people but I think it's good for everyone because I feel safe because there are cops there. There's cops there. They're everywhere," said Alexa Constantino.

Whether you like the changes or not--the police feel they are working.

"Since we have implemented the downtown deployment strategy we've had less incidences of crime down there," said Sgt. Williams.

According to Greenville Police reports, since the summer of 2009 when the shooting happened, there have been 247 calls to the Greenville Police Department for service downtown. 6 for an armed subject, 7 for shots fired, 117 for assaults, 103 for fights, 3 for sexual assaults, 1 for armed robbery, and 10 for strong armed robbery.

Sgt. Williams says that a common misconception is that some say there are too many officers downtown thus pulling manpower away from perhaps more violence prone parts of the city. He says that the force downtown is dedicated to that job alone, and any extra officers are overtime.

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