Russell Co. law enforcement focusing on ‘community policing’ to build relationships with residents

Russell Co. law enforcement focusing on ‘community policing’ to build relationships with residents

PHENIX CITY. Ala. (WTVM) - Russell County residents may start seeing extra law enforcement patrolling through neighborhoods. That’s because law enforcement is heightening its efforts of “community policing.”

Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor said the effort has a lot to do with trying to build better relationships in various communities in hopes it will keep violent crimes down.

“The goal is to reduce crime and make the area safer for the good citizens who live in these communities who are asking for help,” Taylor said.

Taylor said many citizens can no longer enjoy their homes and now live in fear after a recent spike of violent crimes in the community, attributing some of that to gang activity.

“We are having increases in drug crimes, increases in drive-by shootings, increase of those types of crimes in certain parts of the city. And that is what we are trying to target and help those people,” Taylor said.

Working with the Phenix City Police Department, the sheriff’s department will be deploying more deputies to patrol heavily crime-dominated neighborhoods, not to enforce, but rather to build relationships, according to Phenix City Police Chief Ray Smith.

“Sometimes bad things happen in neighborhoods, but they don’t know who to call because they don’t know who to trust because they never met a police officer and had a good experience,” Smith said. "Well, if we can have some face-to-face conversations and have good experiences, then they know we are people they can trust.”

City leaders said they think this strategy will work to help bring some peace of mind back to the community once more.

“I am looking forward to great things happening in our community and kids being able to walk to the store again," Rev. Noble Williams said. "Or some of the elderly ladies to be able to sit on their porches and enjoy the sunshine.”

“As they are saying, we are not going into the community to create a problem, we are going into the community to make the problem better,” Rev. Roy Jones said.

A couple of ways law enforcement intends to build these relationships is just by driving up and down a street in the neighborhood and saying hello, or even giving people their business cards.

Overall, Taylor said keeping crime down, starts with having a police presence in the area.

“This is going to give us an opportunity to strengthen that," he said. “This will be an opportunity for deputies and police officers to talk to the people in the community, to get out and introduce themselves, and give their phone numbers out. We expect to solve some cases and clear some criminals out of the subdivisions, but we also expect to gain the trust of the community.”

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