Police: change will not come unless community stands strong together

Rachel McAuley

February 1, 2014

LAURINBURG — A code of silence forged between community members has contributed to Scotland County’s growing rate of violence and gang activity, but the information gap is closing, Laurinburg police said at a public forum on Saturday.

According to Laurinburg police officer Barry Campbell, many small towns and big cities are in denial about gang activity and keep their knowledge of it “swept under the rug.”

“… It’s something that’s been ignored. It’s gotten so big that we’re playing catch-up.”

Campbell’s comments were in response to a question posed to him at a “Day of Learning,” sponsored by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Laurinburg Alumnae Chapter.

“Everyone’s turned a blind eye to it and the ‘no snitching rule’ is tearing this community apart,” he said.

About 30 people attended the free forum on the first day of Black History Month, held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Franklin Chapel AME Zion Church.

Campbell said that violence will not diminish until the community stands together and defeats the cycle bred by poverty and the lack of positive role models in children’s lives.

“They see the fast money, jewelry, fast cars — it’s temporary,” he said.

However, Campbell said that if people stand up, take precautions and tell authorities what they know about illegal gang activity happening in their neighborhoods, it will help make the community a safer place.

The Rev. Lawrence Dowdy, a representative from N.C. Religion, seconded Campbell’s thoughts.

“You have to take care of your community,” he said.

Sheriff’s Investigator Gyivan Jackson said the department is attempting to prevent crime before it starts with programs similar to D.A.R.E., which have been implemented in the elementary and middle schools. The department has also enlisted the help of high school students, who volunteer to serve as positive role models and to teach kids how to be safe in emergency situations.

“We try to bridge that gap within the community,” Jackson said. “I think that gap is closing.”

The Rev. Terrance Williams, N.C. Chairperson of Community Advocacy and the leader of the county’s NAACP, gave a sermon challenging blacks to rise above history’s shackles and be more involved in improving their communities alongside their fellow neighbors.

“When we start talking about blacks we ought to be able to talk about blacks or our contributions in history,” said Williams. “So I like to say it’s blacks in history. And what we have to do is develop this pride that every day of the year — ‘I am making my part in time in history.’”

Williams said racism is not the root of the problem.

“You have to realize that we were brought here as indentured servants. We have to be able to expand the scope of racism. Racism is never about color,” Williams said. “It’s not about black and white. The Bible says that the love of money is the root to all evil. When we start discovering what true history is about then now we can start being able to develop communities. When we learn true history we learn how to invest in ourselves.”

“If we don’t get the mindset and study the history of who we are then we’ll all be caught in this economic roller coaster,” Williams said.

Williams then challenged the audience to stop talking about change and improvements and go out into their communities and do it. “What are you going to do?” he said, his eyes scanning the crowd intently. “I challenge you — I ask you to be a doer.”

Williams encouraged blacks to fight back against cuts to Medicaid and unemployment benefits, as well as help to keep kids in school and out of jail.

Rep. Garland Pierce, also a reverend, spoke of the many disappointments Democrats faced during last year’s session and encouraged his Scotland County constituents to go to the polls.

“It was a very difficult year in the legislation,” he said. “We fought. We had no voice, basically. It’s better when the numbers are closer, you have more people really working together but when you have the super majority it’s hard to get people to go along with you. There were some things in education that was not good for education, particularly not paying our teachers the money they deserve.”

Charles Brown, chairman of the Scotland County Board of Education, said that the church should have been “packed and over-packed” with people concerned about the fate of the community.

With the efforts being made by the police and sheriff’s department, youth can “be an active part in their own success,” Brown said.