The Rockingham Police Department and Richmond County Sheriff’s Office partnered up this summer in a joint community policing project at Crown Pointe and Gardenwood Apartment complexes in Rockingham. The project was designed to bring residents of high crime areas and law enforcement together to lessen crime and provide a more family friendly environment.
“The police department took two officers from their normal positions and put them down at (Crown Pointe and Gardenwood Apartments), and that basically became their city for the entire summer,” said Rockingham Police Chief Billy Kelly. “They worked there all summer and didn’t leave — they patrolled on foot, by way of golf cart or A.T.V. Also, the Sheriff’s Office sent deputies down there … We worked with both complexes, making sure people that didn’t belong there were made to leave.”
Clint Neeley, an officer with the Rockingham Police Department, said he saw a decrease in crime levels while law enforcement was there.
“This year, arrests went down dramatically,” Neeley said. “I believe we had three arrests for the whole summer. Two of them were trespassers and one of them was a subject that just happened to be in the area that had warrants on them. Three arrests — that’s really low compared to prior years. We didn’t have any drug arrests … basically there were only minor offenses.”
“I feel like it was successful,” Kelly said. “When we first started (the project years ago) … we had multiple arrests. We had very few arrests down there this year. I believe it was more because of officers presence, they knew the officers would be there.”
Although the Rockingham Police Department has participated in the project for several years, this marked the first year that the Sheriff’s Office joined the project, and both agencies said the collaboration was well-received.
“It was a great experience working alongside the Rockingham Police Department officers — who are great guys,” said Detective Sergeant Robert Smith of the Sheriff’s Office. “We have a great working relationship with them. To get to work alongside them on a daily basis was a great opportunity to get to know them better and see how they work.”
During the project, lawmen also walked around and interacted with children, often playing games with them, Kelly said.
Interaction with the youth in the community included weekly events, such as movie and popcorn afternoons.
“I was really impressed with the kids,” Smith said. “They were a well-mannered group that seemed to enjoy the movie nights … It was great to be on a first-name basis with some of them, and it’s nice to let them see a positive side of law enforcement.”
Neeley said the tenants at both apartment complexes also responded well to the project.
“A lot of the residents also help us by letting us know if something is going on,” he said. “We’ve built a good relationship with some of the residents out there and we get good feedback from them if there’s problems in the area.”
The project concluded Aug. 22, when officers of the police department and the Sheriff’s Office handed out school supplies, along with hot dogs, chips and refreshments to young residents. Officers of both departments also encouraged the youth to remain in school and do well in their academics.
“Sometimes when you work with other agencies, you come closer as a whole,” Smith said as he considered the rewards of the project. “Hopefully we made a difference — even if we made a difference in just one of them, then it was a working program.”
— Staff Writer Mallory Brown can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 18, or by email at email@example.com.