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Police anti-crime effort in South Longview goes grassroots

By Ellen Goodacre
July 11, 2015 at 11:46 p.m.

PAR officers Jeff Hall and Kendric Montgomery speak with Willie Talley in front of his home on Fuller Drive, on Thursday July 9, 2015, while visiting south Longview residents about neighborhood crime watch organizations. (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)

Longview Police Area Representatives Jeff Hall and Kendric Montgomery took to the streets on bicycles Thursday, stopping to talk to people in a South Longview neighborhood. It was a familiar scene in that part of town during the past several months.

The two PAR officers, who represent areas of South Longview, were encouraging residents to start crime watch groups. Hall said no new neighborhood watch groups have been formed in either South Longview beat in the past year, something he hopes to change as he gets out and meets residents.

The effort is spurred by an increase in homicides in South Longview — all but one of the city's seven slayings this year have been in that part of town. One case has produced an arrest.

"We've definitely been in the neighborhood encouraging residents to (start crime watch groups)," Hall said. "And any kind of relationship we can build with the businesses, with apartment complexes and with the citizens would be greatly beneficial to the police department."

Police say there have been no significant changes in how officers patrol South Longview neighborhoods in response to this year's homicides.

Instead, the department is taking a grassroots approach, encouraging residents to watch for crime while officers get out into the neighborhoods to meet as many people as possible.

"There haven't been any major changes in our policing efforts; we're still doing the same things now that we were doing prior to these homicides," Interim police Chief Mike Bishop said this past week. "It's more of an awareness type effort to educate the community on how they can get involved and assist us with the ongoing investigations and things of that nature."

After the shooting death of Da'Coreyan Blankenship in March became the fifth homicide this year in South Longview, former Mayor Jay Dean outlined a series of steps to curb violence. Among those was community interaction.

A barrier the department often faces is residents are afraid to talk about crimes, PAR Supervisor Sgt. Jacky Hiles said, and officers continue to work to build relationships.

"We actually need the community to feel like they can call us and remain anonymous," Hiles said. "There's a big myth that sometimes the police will reveal your name if you provide information, and that is totally not accurate. It's totally anonymous; we encourage people to call and give us information."

Some South Longview residents believe the climate is steadily improving and what the area needs is not more policing or crime prevention, but more focus on community building.

"It's really a safe area," King Hill said while walking Friday with his children on 12th Street, blocks away from where Blankenship was found shot to death on Aurel Avenue. "I'm from the city, so I feel like people put themselves in (dangerous) situations. January was really crazy, you know? Recently, it's really died down a little bit."

Hill said he believes residents need to be smart, be safe and unify.

"It's all about staying out of the way, minding your own business and doing what you have to do. And we need unity, that's what it's all about. Community. Revolution," he said. "Down here you might pull up at a stop sign and the person might (mean) mug you and they don't even know you."

Brandon McLeod, taking a break Friday from chores at his grandmother's Birdsong Street home, said a large part of the crime problem is teens and young adults in South Longview have nothing to keep them busy.

"I know there are older people (here) too, but most of the people that's getting into trouble and stuff, it's the youngsters because it there's nothing to do," McLeod said. "There's no summer programs, no recreational programs for them to go to.

"Most of the time, none of the kids want to be the oddball, so sometimes it's frowned upon when you're doing the right thing or doing something good. But it doesn't have to be like that; there just needs to be something to do."

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