February 2008 Highlights

The Police Department this month announced plans to address the troubling increase in robberies.

Police response to increased robberies is underway: Like other communities large and small, statewide and beyond, Winston-Salem has seen a troubling increase in armed robberies compared to last year. This continues a trend noticeable since 2004. (That year represented the end of a steep four-year decline in robberies.)  The causes of this problem trend are not completely clear.  Patrols, arrests, and convictions are all up, so lack of enforcement activity does not appear to be a causing factor. However, in order to respond to the symptom itself—more robberies—the city Police Department and other local law enforcement agencies are taking several steps, including these:

  • Creation of a 40 member task force of uniformed and undercover officers assigned to robberies.
  • Assignment of 10 new members to the Police Criminal Investigation Unit.
  • Special additional patrol attention from uniformed and undercover officers to four identified hot spots, including parts of the Ardmore neighborhood and areas along Stratford Road and Hanes Mall Boulevard.
  • Aggressive pursuit of anyone identified as a possible accessory to these crimes, including sources of the weapons used in robbery attempts.
  • Increasing the Crimestoppers maximum award to $2,000 for information leading to arrest and conviction in these cases.
  • Working with the District Attorney and U.S. Attorney offices to pursue appropriately strong penalties, including the use of federal crime statutes.

We are determined to provide the most effective possible enforcement response while continuing to identify and address underlying causes.

Search for new police chief underway:  Winston-Salem Police Chief Pat Norris retired effective Dec. 1, 2007, and agreed to stay on under a short-term contract which extends through June.  To help select our next police chief, the City Council has approved a national candidate search.  Internal and external candidates will be considered.  Each city council member and the mayor have met with the search firm to provide our recommendations for key qualities to look for in our next chief.  We anticipate taking community comment regarding candidate finalists before a final hiring decision is made.  Under our council-manager system of local government, actual candidate interviews and the final hiring decision will be made by City Manager Lee Garrity. 

Stormwater rules:     The long-studied and debated stormwater management rules update is scheduled for discussion and a vote at the March meeting of the Public Works Committee.  The meeting is Tuesday, March 18, starting at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.  Public comments will be welcome at that time.

More funds for transportation improvements: The Winston-Salem Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) learned last month that we would receive an additional $5.8 million for local transportation improvement projects.  Our MPO directs these discretionary funds to small high-priority projects which can be completed on a relatively short time frame.  Funds will be allocated by the MPO's Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC), on which I serve as one of Winston-Salem's representatives.  We will be reviewing bids from local governments (including Winston-Salem) within our urban area for use of these funds, beginning this summer.  Candidate projects will include intersection safety improvements, pedestrian safety projects, and bus system capital needs.