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Imagine looking out the window of your home and watching a drug transaction in your front yard. Imagine standing helplessly by as neighborhood thugs laugh and take your furniture from your porch. Imagine an elderly widow cowering in her living room as teens pummel her house with rocks and mock her.
You don’t have to imagine these scenes. They’re real. They happen almost every day in certain areas of the county, specifically the city of Lancaster.
So, why don’t the victims leave? They can’t. Many have lived there almost all their lives. Now they’re prisoners in their own homes.
But several residents and the Lancaster Police Department are working together to improve these neighborhoods. Lancaster Alternative Policing Strategy (LAPS) and the police department recently sponsored a prayer march. The march’s theme was “Taking back our neighborhood. Breaking the strongholds.”
The focus of the march was to stand up to violence and help residents feel safe in their homes. Lancaster Police Chief Harlean Howard said the effort is to increase community awareness of needing everyone to participate in the crime-fighting effort.
In another effort, several police officers led by Sgt. Tim Witherspoon knocked on the doors of homes and spoke with residents about the problems they were experiencing.
The effort was part of a community-policing training program, conducted by the Carolinas Institute for Community Policing, which is set up through the U.S. Department of Justice.
The institute provides the education and training for police to develop problem-solving techniques to reduce crime.
The officers tackled several real-life problems, from loitering issues, intoxicated people and graffiti. After talking with residents and conducting surveys, officers met and discussed the residents’ concerns.
“The residents said they see police are riding through here, but they want to see us doing more,” Witherspoon said. “They want more of a police presence here.”
Many of the homeowners say they do not recognize some of the people who are causing the problems.
Witherspoon said he was appalled at some of the stories he heard from residents.
“I think if officers come over here, get out of their vehicle and talk to residents, they’ll feel more comfortable,” Witherspoon said. “It’s showing that we care, that we do care about your neighborhood.”
We applaud the efforts of both programs. It will take us all working together to fight crime and make neighborhoods safe again.
If you witness a crime or see suspicious activity, you can call the police department’s anonymous tips hotline at (803) 289-6040.
All you have to do is call the number, give a time, location and description of the activity, then hang up.
“We have lost a lot of lives due to senseless acts of violence and it is time to take back our neighborhoods,” Howard said.
We agree. No one needs to be a prisoner in his or her own home. And we can help free them.