Greensboro police hoping to find welcome mat in rough neighborhoods

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The Greensboro Police Department is trying to make inroads at an affordable housing development that’s been plagued by drug activity and violence for a number of years.

On Wednesday, dozens of officers went door-to-door at the Smith Homes off West Florida Street to connect with neighbors and hand out information about home and car safety. It’s part of an ongoing effort to improve community relations starting with areas of the city with high crime rates.

Police said they found lots of people willing to talk about the problems they see.

“It helps to build relationships get information they may need from cases and citizens getting to know and the officers getting to know the citizens,” said Sgt. AJ Ricketts, who’s in charge of a new neighborhood policing unit focused on the Smith Homes development.

Some of the common complaints were visitors from outside the area dealing drugs and causing fights and violence.

Shaquanna Sawyer, a mother of two, said she would rather walk out of the neighborhood so her kids can play rather than feeling like she has to constantly watch them around her home.

Sawyer liked the effort made by police Wednesday but hopes they are accountable when it counts.

“When people are out here calling and actually needing your help: do it. Do it the right way,” said Sawyer.

Valerie Andrews has seen improvement in neighborhood safety since her mother lived at Smith Homes years ago.

“When I used to visit here it used to be bad but it’s not as bad as people think it is,” said Andrews.

Andrews said they biggest hurdle in creating a safer neighborhood is fear of retaliation.

“If somebody sees you talking to the police over here you're going to be called a snitch,” said Andrews. “That’s why nobody is going to talk to police.”

Police are hoping attitudes like that can change but even they normally tread lightly when trying to talk to people -- and especially kids -- in the community.

“With kids it’s a fine line because they want to come up and talk to us, they want to ask us questions, they want to know things,” said Officer R.T. Brooks. “Sometimes parents don't always want that.”

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