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New Winston-Salem police district denied

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A new police district included in the early drafts of Winston-Salem’s recently passed budget was shot down by council members.

The district, which was to be called the “Center City District,” would have encompassed downtown, as well as other areas surrounding downtown. Said areas included parts of Coliseum Drive, University Parkway, Northwest Boulevard, Thurmond Street, Skyline Village, the Washington Park area, Waughtown Street, as well as Winston-Salem State University, Bowman Gray Stadium, UNC School of the Arts and, at its southernmost tip, part of Silas Creek Parkway.

Police say the purpose of the district was to improve efficiency of police services downtown, add an increased presence, improve community relations and better coordinate special events.

“It does take pieces of each one of the current police response districts and makes that core center city district,” Winston-Salem Police Chief Barry Rountree told the city’s finance committee on June 7.

The department had planned to transition officers to the new district in the fall, however, council members had their concerns. For example, some worried that the language used in the district’s naming as the “Center City District” showed bias towards downtown. The other three police districts are simply named Districts one, two and three.

“As far as the name is concerned, it really doesn’t matter to us,” Rountree said to the committee, prompting Council Member Derwin Montgomery, who represents the city’s East Ward to say, “It’s almost moot now, because it’s public in the conversation.”

“If I were presenting it from the police side of things, I would not have, I would have initially had the conversation as a fourth district, and not necessarily a central city district,” Montgomery told FOX8.

As far as an economic development standpoint, Montgomery said, “Parts of the community still feel left out when you begin to have a conversation about investments in downtown.”

Montgomery feared – in part – that approving the district as it was would have spurred a division between certain areas of the community.

“When you have less of a time when you’re pitting parts of the community against each other, and just really talking about a public safety as a whole is the conversation I think that we should have,” he said.

Montgomery added that there are other parts of the community, outside of downtown, which should be focused on more when it comes to public safety.

“Making sure that where the highest needs are, that the resources are being deployed into those areas now, to attend to the issues that those communities are having,” he said.

Montgomery said part of the $310,000 which would have gone to the new district went to a different approach at improving public safety. For example, improved police recruiting efforts, summer youth programs and the city’s SOAR program.

“In being able to make some of those adjustments, there were some things that had to shift and the fourth district was one of those things,” Montgomery added.

However, though the district wasn’t approved this time around, it doesn’t mean it won’t be in the future.

“We probably may come to a place where we see a fourth district, I just don’t think that we’re at the place at this time where all the pieces of the puzzle are there for us to move forward,” Montgomery said.