Two local law enforcement agencies have joined with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington for a series of talks scheduled for more than 20 communities in the area.
The Wilmington Police Department and the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office are partnering with the university to conduct a series of community dialogue circles throughout New Hanover County, according to police spokeswoman Linda Rawley.
“Meaningful conversations with citizens can clear up simple misunderstandings and help to re-shape negative biases,” said New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon.
Rawley said the discussions, which will be moderated, are intended to provide a forum for concerns but also to build relationships, trust and understanding among communities and the law enforcement officers who serve them.
UNCW Professors Dr. Thomas Barth and Dr. Bruce McKinney are overseeing the community project. Co-facilitators representing the community and law enforcement will help in leading discussions, Rawley said.
“I am excited to be a part of this worthwhile effort and to help close the communications gap in our community,” Barth said. “I believe these basic conversations will move us in the right direction.”
Once the discussions are completed, Barth and McKinney will survey group members to measure the results of the discussions. These results will be shared with the public.
“Our greatest tool to overcoming differences is to have a conversation.” McKinney said. “We hope these discussions can foster better interactions between citizens and prevent any negative interactions between these two groups in the future.”
The idea for the dialogue circles came from the City of Wilmington’s city-wide discussions on youth violence that were held last year. One of the recommendations from the discussions was to enhance diversity relations between the community and law enforcement.
The initiative was created in partnership with several local organizations including the local NAACP, LINC Inc., the OOPS Foundation and a number of other community groups.
“I’m hopeful that these circles will build greater trust within our community,” Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said. “When we build trust we can reduce crime and improve the quality of life for everyone.”
Twenty two dialogue circles are scheduled with the first slated to begin in January 2016. The list is as follows:
- Apple Valley/Walnut Hills
- Brooklyn Area District Community – 5th & Red Cross
- Kings Grant/Spring View
- Village at Greenfield
- The Bottom – 8th and Orange /14th & Dock
- Monterey Heights
- Sunset Park
- Greentree Apartments
- Houston Moore
- College Acres Drive
- Parkwood Estates and Alimosa Place
- Love Grove
- Longleaf Park
- Tidewater Homes, Manly, Maides Park, Princess Place
- Hanover Heights
- Castle Street, Wooster to Church Street, and 3rd Street to 17th Street
- Carolina Heights
- Market North including Frog Pond Place and the Reserve at Forrest Hill
- Taylor Homes – Nixon Street, Red Cross, and 5th Street corridor