CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Reaching out to residents on the city’s West Side after a wave of recent violence, Charleston police heard from community members Thursday night.
Chief Brent Webster and other police joined City Council members at Stonewall Jackson Middle School to listen as citizens voiced concerns.
“Our goal as police officers, we want to be visible and responsive,” Webster said. “If we do those two, then we’re pretty effective.”
Passing a microphone around the school auditorium, citizens spoke up about neighborhood issues including the recent gun violence, cars speeding where children typically play and reports of prostitution.
Lt. Steve Cooper, chief of detectives, went as far as to personally update one resident on one unsolved murder case.
“We care about the citizens on the West Side, the businesses on the West Side,” Webster said. “We want them to be heard and we want them to know that they have a police department that cares about them.”
Citizens also looked at themselves when it came to deterring crime, from developing ways to keep kids from violent lifestyles, to becoming politically active, to simply coming together and bonding as a community.
Though crime rates have dropped in Charleston during the past few years, the perception is the streets are still unsafe.
This is why Webster said he likes engaging the community by being visible.
“We feel that we’re already ahead of the curve in that area because we get so many tips from the West Side already through emails, through telephone calls,” he said. “It seems like everyday we’re getting a tip and acting on it.”
During the meeting, Webster said there have been no documented shootings over the past two weeks and the department has been able to solve crimes at a more efficient rate.
He credits this to the open communication.
“We feel that’s probably one of the main reasons we’re solving so much crime right now,” he said. “There’s a level of suspicion, I’m sure. There’s suspicion of maybe they’re fearful of retaliation by the bad actors but I’ve not really seen that being an issue over the past couple years.”
Webster encouraged those with tips to use the department’s website, charlestonwvpolice.org.