Community, Lynchburg police hold roundtable discussion on SIRT Team's efforts
Group plans on meeting again to talk about programs for at-risk youth
LYNCHBURG, Va. – While you're sleeping, Lynchburg police’s SIRT team, made up of officers with years of experience, drive through the Hill City looking for guns, drugs, and gang activity.
10 News we went on a ride-along with the team Friday night. We wanted to find out how they target prolific offenders.
“I think ultimately, in the very end, we want the fear of crime to be reduced in the resident’s mind. We want them to feel safe in the areas that they live in. We want them to know that we're here to help them if they call for assistance. We want to build those relationships and probably most importantly, the reason we were put into place is to arrest violent criminals people involved in illegal activity,” Sgt. Joel Hinkley said
In the 16 operational days that SIRT has been on the streets since May 30, there have been 44 total arrests made. Eight felony drug charges have been filed, along with six misdemeanor drug charges, and three gun charges. In one operation, 19 fugitives were arrested.
Though these numbers mean good news for the department, some in the community still have questions about the team’s mission. This is why police, city council, and community members held a roundtable to clear the air.
“I think what we brought to the table was explaining a little bit about more about how that’s intelligence-led and not just going throughout the city at different times and targeting different areas,” Deputy Chief Mark Jamison said.
“It’s my job now to take that information, take it to the community. Let the community know, ‘Hey listen, there’s certain things that you need to be able to do, that you can’t do,'” B.B. Shavers, Shopo Nation, said.
B.B. Shavers, the organizer of the conversation, says people have called him with concerns about LPD’s policies and training.
“Just making sure we got these officers that’s trained well enough to be able to go into our communities, especially African-American since that’s what they’re targeting. If they never been trained or dealing with people of color or any of that nature, you’re going to have conflict,” Shavers said.
Chief Raul Diaz reassured community members the department is constantly training its officers.
In the end, both sides agree the conversations don't end here.
“I think everybody’s committed to coming together, to working together as one, and if we come together, we get things accomplished a lot easier,” Jamison said.
The group left today with ideas of starting summer programs to help keep inner-city youth and young adults off the streets. They have plans of meeting again to put their plans into action.
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