Greenville police to issue citations for small crimes instead of arrests

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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - People who commit some crimes in one city might not find themselves under arrest, but receiving a citation instead.

Greenville Mayor Kandie Smith declared this new Citations in lieu of Arrest policy a 21st century model of policing, and made it the item that kicked off Community Policing Week in the city of Greenville.

The policy passed unanimously Monday night at Greenville's City Council meeting, affirming support of the policy that allows officers to write citations for low level misdemeanors instead of arresting people.

"As long as you can identify the person, you have no reason to believe they're not going to appear for court, you can give them a citation for it and they're on their way," explains Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman.

The policy itself was written several months ago and has been in effect since then, but was presented and highlighted Monday night as part of the Community Policing Week with the hope that this policy is a step towards collaboration between the Greenville community and the police department.

"Our police department is trying to make that effort, to make sure we allow citizens who do, who are stopped for some of these minor offenses, the opportunity to be issued a citation with the understanding they would show up for court," Smith says.

Examples of misdemeanor offenses where a citation may be an option includes crimes like larceny, shoplifting, simple possession of marijuana, disorderly conduct as well as several other charges, but in the end, the decision to write a citation remains in the hands of the officer.

"Many times when officers are out working the street, there are times when it is more prudent to just write a citation and get people on their way," Holtzman explains. "It's over with by the time the officer gets there, yet we can hold people accountable and get people to court. But in other ways they can get back home, and get back to work the next day as well."

Chief Holtzman also said that by implementing this policy, officers will be better equipped to focus on and respond to greater issues in the community, while at the same time holding people accountable for offenses.

Mayor Smith also proclaimed this week to be Community Policing Week in the city, which aims to highlight collaboration between the community and the police through a number of scheduled event's throughout the week.