Know Your Neighbor

Edenton Police Chief Henry King speaks during a Know Your Neighbor meeting Monday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Edenton.

A newly formed group aims to help combat crime in Edenton through community activities that encourage citizens to know their neighbors.

Know Your Neighbor met Monday at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church to organize and discuss how to reduce the town’s crime.

Edenton Police Chief Henry King noted that the town has had what some considered gangs for decades, but more recently learned that they are nationally known gangs with long-running feuds.

“They were referred to as East and West, as in if you lived past this certain street, you’d be in the West gang and if you lived on the other side of the street you’d be in the East gang,” King said. “More recently, we’ve learned that these gangs are just the Blood and the Crips.”

Gang members tend to travel along the US 17 corridor, committing crimes in Edenton, Hertford and Elizabeth City.

“These people will do something in Edenton, travel to Hertford. They’ll do something there and then go up to Elizabeth City,” King said. “Then they come back to Edenton and start doing it again.”

These gangs often use YouTube to share rap videos about their crimes and the consequences of telling the police, King said. He noted groups of five or six people will gather near abandoned houses or empty lots, film a few minutes of video and then drive to another location in town to film another part. The music is then dubbed over the footage.

He said the videos often include people with guns and doing illegal substances.

“You have to be very specific when you search on YouTube for these videos,” King said. “You often have to search for something like a specific street name.”

The public can help reduce local crime by reporting any activities that are out of the ordinary, King said. Parents can watch for unusual behavior in their children, or things such as wearing items of clothing in a different way or new behaviors.

“Parents usually have, like a spider sense, when it comes to their kids,” King said. “They can feel that something is off with their kid; although they may not know what it exactly is.”

Among the keys in helping curb gun violence, is communication. This involves communication between the police and the citizens, family members and criminals, and various organizations working to better youths’ lives.

He noted a new program the police department is offering for people who they identify in the YouTube gang-related rap videos. The agency sends them a letter encouraging them to turn their life around or be arrested and charged with a crime.

He also encouraged businesses to get surveillance cameras that point outward, toward the parking lot or street.

He noted the April 8, 2020, case in which shots were fired at a pickup truck and the driver of the truck returning fire at the ABC Liquor Store on North Broad Street. Five people were arrested and charged in connection with the case with the help of store surveillance footage. There were several witnesses inside the store, but when questioned, they refused to talk, King said.

“On the indoor camera footage, you could see customers go up to the store window, press their faces to the glass and look outside. They could see what was happening,” King said. “One of the witnesses denied he was there so much so that when we pointed out that we had a credit card receipt with his name on it for two bottles of Hennessey, he said that someone else bought the alcohol and used his card.”

King noted many crimes are like that, where there are many people around who claim not to have seen anything.

EPD has an anonymous tip line, 252-632-0303. King noted that tips, in conjunction with other evidence, are used to build cases.

He mentioned that residents should call law enforcement about anything that seems out of the ordinary. They’d rather respond to a call, investigate and find nothing, rather than have something bad happen that could have been prevented.

This upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1, the Town of Edenton has included a budget item for EPD to purchase a system that will help better track shootings.

The program, which a one-time cost of about $150,000, alerts EPD to shots-fired incidents. When installed, EPD will be able to accurately locate such incidents, as well as determine where the shooter was and their direction of travel. King noted that the system will automatically turn city-owned cameras to where the shooter is, in an effort to capture any identifying features or a getaway vehicle.

Also while discussing technology, King asked residents to find out whether their home security system has any cameras that point to the street He asked that those willing to do so to either create a user ID police can access or let the police know it’s there. If a crime occurs in a neighborhood, EPD can either log-in to watch your camera footage through their User ID or call to get your permission to watch the footage.

An example of this would be if a crime takes place on a street in your neighborhood, EPD could note that your cameras operate near the crime scene and possibly find out what kind of car was used as a getaway vehicle.

King said they plan to put this program in three areas in town totaling about a 1-mile radius. Those areas include part of Oakum Street, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and Tyler Run.

Another tool that EPD uses in a national ballistics database, NIBIN. King noted that each time a bullet is fired, the gun’s barrel leaves a “fingerprint” on the shell or casing that is unique to that particular gun. The database can show whether a particular gun has been used in other crimes.

In the case of the ABC Liquor Store shooting, EPD used the database and learned that one of the guns used in that incident was used in several other crimes. When one of the suspects was caught, EPD was able to add more charges in connection to those other crimes. The suspect’s case was moved to federal court.

Know You Neighbor hopes to help the police by reintroducing neighbors to each other through community service activities, such as neighborhood clean-ups. They also hope to get groups of people to tour town and note any abandoned houses or empty lot.

They hope to bring this list of properties to town officials and work with them to create community gardens in empty lots and get the property owners to take care of their empty houses.

The group hopes to host meetings through Edenton, at different churches and centers within the community.

“We would like to open this up to the whole community to not only voice your concerns, but to hear your ideas for improvement, and volunteer to participate in initiatives,” the group’s flyer read. “Our goal is to bring pride back into our streets and build a stronger and safer community.”

You can submit ideas or get more information by emailing 252neighbors@gmail.com .