Waynesville police engage residents through forums

fr waynesvillepdA committee of Waynesville residents is putting the community in the term “community policing.”

The Waynesville Police Department Community Action Forum is comprised of 13 residents from all around Waynesville who meet quarterly with police officers to talk about problems in specific parts of town. Grievances could range from a speeding through neighborhoods to a suspected drug house.

No matter the problem, the meetings give the police and residents a chance to gather and inform each other about happenings in Waynesville.

“It might not be something they want to call 911 about, but it’s important to pass it on to the police,” said Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed.

The idea of a community-feedback committee arose years ago as a way to create a direct line between law enforcement and the people who work and live in the areas they patrol.

However, the committee did not take off until 2010. The Waynesville Board of Aldermen and the police department appointed the members, each of whom represents a section of town.

Despite being around for two years, few people know about the committee or what exactly it does.

“I don’t think the community at-large really knows what we are about,” said Luis Quevedo, owner of the design firm LQ Design Options and a member of the committee.

It’s not only an outlet for residents to pass concerns to police, but also a chance for police officers to educate a small group of residents about problems plaguing Waynesville and other towns in the state such as prescription drug abuse or more recently the advent of the dangerous, but legal hallucinogens known on the street as “bath salts.”

Those residents can then share the message with neighbors or other business owners.

“You just talk about stuff, what’s going on,” said Ken Mull, owner of Bob’s Sports Store on South Main Street and a member of the committee. “Stuff we can do to help.”

The police department also reports crime statistics to committee members and tells them what to watch out for.

“You know what is going as far as breaking and enterings in the area,” Mull said as an example.

But, more importantly, it gives residents the police department’s ear to air complaints that aren’t considered an emergency.

“It may have been brought to their attention by other business owners or community members,” Hollingsed said.

Members of the committee have found it to be mutually beneficial.

“It is much more productive than I would have expected,” said Danny Wingate, general manager of Haywood Builders Supply. “It is a good way to get your concerns out there.”

Mull said he has noticed a difference since he and other committee members began meeting regularly with police officers.

“It helps. It really does,” Mull said.

While most of the concerns that arise during the meetings would be considered minor — like traffic problems or late-night noise or lack of lighting in certain areas — the meetings do focus on suspected crime in neighborhoods. Hollingsed said committee members have been able to relay information from others about homes where someone might be selling drugs.

“There may be certain individuals or residences where people see a lot of traffic going back and forth,” Hollingsed said. “A lot of narcotics information comes out.”

The officers can take that information and start monitoring the situation themselves.

But, no matter what information is shared between the two groups. Hollingsed and committee members believe it is important simply to have an open line of communication between Waynesville residents and the police department.

“It’s just a good thing to keep people informed,” Mull said.


Join the discussion

The Waynesville Police Department Community Action Forum, a 13-member committee created to assist in developing a community-oriented policing program, has two vacancies. Representatives are need from the Russ Avenue Business Corridor and the South Waynesville areas. Meetings are held quarterly, and committee members must reside within the Waynesville town limits. Applications for the committee are available at www.townofwaynesville.org.

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