September 2006 Highlights

September saw the release of annual crime statistics, a change in rules regarding recycling, and continued work on sign issues.

Crime statistics: The Winston-Salem Police Department released its Annual Statistical Report this month, analyzing crime trends based on data from 2001 through 2005. Over that period, both violent and property crimes dropped overall. Within those positive overall trends, trouble spots remain. For example, while robberies remain down from 2001, the downward trend stopped from 2004 to 2005. Meanwhile, burglaries increased from 2001 to 2005. These changes underscore the importance of continuing efforts to improve the effectiveness of law enforcement in our community. Ongoing efforts include community-oriented policing initiatives like the "Western Downtown Initiative" (WDI). WDI is a cooperative project involving the Police Department, other city agencies, and neighborhood associations, which work together to identify the sources of chronic neighborhood problems and address them. The WDI target area includes parts of four city wards, including the Southwest Ward. Since this initiative was started in spring 2005, violent crimes have been reduced by 29% in the targeted area, while criminal arrests have been increased by 37%. Other efforts have targeted building neighborhood crime watch networks and cleaning up substandard housing violations.

This is a good opportunity to remind neighbors that officers within the Police Department are available to help set up or revive neighborhood watch networks. Contact the Crime Prevention office at 773-7835 for more information. I am also happy to meet with neighborhood watch groups to discuss neighborhood problems and how the city might be able to help.

Recycling bins: If you’ve been up before dawn on trash/recycling collection days, perhaps you’ve heard someone clanking down your street, scavenging through recycling bins for the aluminum. The noise is likely only a minor annoyance, but there is another concern. The cost of the recycling program to the city depends in part on how much can be recovered by the sale of recycled materials, and aluminum is a major part of that value. When third parties remove the aluminum for their own sale, it directly increases the costs to the city—meaning to the taxpayer. Therefore, the city council on September 18 approved an ordinance making it explicitly illegal for others to remove recyclable materials from residents’ bins placed at the curb for collection. Violations can draw a $100 civil penalty. So, if you hear that pre-dawn clanking now, please call in the police report.

Signs reviews: In my August report, I discussed the problem of unsightly, illegal sign-posting on utility poles and in street medians and intersections. During our September general government committee meeting, city legal staff reported on options for improving enforcement. Among other options, city staff will work to train volunteers from "Adopt a Street" groups on identifying and removing those illegal signs. The city attorney’s office will also prepare for council consideration city ordinance changes to improve our ability to levy civil penalties against repeat violators of the sign placement rules.

Lockland sidewalk started: I’m pleased to be able to note that construction was started in late September on the new Lockland Avenue sidewalk. The project should be completed during October.

Transportation discussion: The city council will hold a special "committee of the whole" council meeting during October, to discuss important transportation system issues—especially the state of the bus system and proposals for passenger rail. The meeting will be held Monday, October 30, starting at 4 p.m. at City Hall. As always, the meeting is open to the interested public.

Talk of the Town early notice: The annual "Talk of the Town" meeting for the Southwest Ward will be held this year on Thursday, November 9, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Forsyth Tech West Campus auditorium on Bolton Street. At the Talk of the Town meetings, Mayor Allen Joines, the ward’s council member (myself in this case), and city staff hear and discuss questions and suggestions from interested citizens. You’re invited to put the November 9 meeting on your calendar, and bring your ideas on city issues.