After he was sworn in, Greensboro Police Chief Brian James said that before making any major decisions on changes to the Police Department he wanted to hear from the people.
And James has been doing just that, holding community meetings all across the city listening to what people like and don’t like about the Police Department. James has discovered that so many questions he receives are not about police issues but code enforcement issues that he now has someone from the code enforcement division attend the meetings to handle those.
Last week, James held his fifth community forum at the Greensboro Central Library on Church Street downtown. It should have been the sixth, but as James explained, “We missed one because of the blizzard that blew in.”
Before the meeting, James said that in different corners of the city he has heard a lot of different concerns. He said that at the meeting held at the Glenn McNairy Library on Lake Jeanette Road, over half the comments had to do with traffic concerns, at others violent crime was a much bigger concern than traffic.
It was a small group at the public library, between 10 and 15 people showed up, and a number of questions were from downtown residents specifically about downtown issues.
One person asked about video cameras downtown and if there was a repository of videos that a person could view.
James said that while the Greensboro Department of Transportation had some video cameras downtown, the Police Department didn’t have any on the streets and sidewalks downtown.
He said, “We don’t have a linked video system. It would have to be funded and we’d have to look at the cost of that.”
James was also asked about panhandling and if panhandlers were not required to have a license.
James said, “At one time a panhandling license was required but it no longer is.” He explained that the current ordinance prohibited aggressive panhandling but did not restrict people from panhandling as long as they were not aggressive.
A follow-up question was about people sleeping in doorways.
James explained that as long as the person was not blocking the sidewalk, sleeping on the sidewalk was legal, but that when a business was open it wouldn’t be legal to block the doorway.
James was also asked what to do about a rash of car break-ins in a neighborhood. He said that car break-ins are usually a crime of opportunity that occurred when the owner didn’t lock their car. James advised people to lock their cars and not leave anything of value visible in the car.
James, as he has done repeatedly, said that a good community watch program was an effective deterrent to crime.
The community meetings coming up are Tuesday, March 10 at Peeler Recreation Center, 1300 Sykes Ave., and Thursday, March 12 at Griffin Recreation Center, 5301 Hilltop Road.