By: Natalie M. Zeigler
Strengthening the bridge between citizens and law enforcement is a priority for the City and we want to take preventive steps to avoid conflicts. We believe in community-oriented policing. The City strives to ensure residents have a working relationship with those who protect and serve.
With service and openness in mind, last fall the City of Hartsville Police Department partnered with the Greater Hartsville Ministerial Alliance to begin a new community outreach initiative.
This effort was named EMPOWER (Employing Ministry and Police to Overcome Walls and End Racism). Since its inception, EMPOWER has succeeded in making positive impacts in the community by organizing work days that bring officers together with ministers and congregations in order to improve areas in need.
This past weekend I spent some time in South Hartsville aiding EMPOWER as they attended to an abandoned property on Sixth Street. Authorities worked alongside citizens to board the windows and doors, paint the dilapidated house and clear some of the yard’s overgrowth. Members of the City Navigator Department also assisted the project.
These EMPOWER work days are providing a much needed service. Abandoned properties present real threats to communities. It is more than a cosmetic issue. Unkempt lots and discarded homes can breed pest problems and attract crime. What I witnessed last Saturday was another step in the ongoing process of bettering the safety of our neighborhoods through greater unification and communication.
The Police Department has focused on community engagement with Hartsville Safe Communities (HSC), a partnership with the Hartsville Safe Communities Action Team (HSCAT). HSC has sponsored repeat offender notification sessions in which selected repeat offenders listen to community members and law enforcement officers voice concerns about violent crime. Attendance at the session is required as part of the offender’s probation. Additionally, offenders are offered direct access to counseling, job placement resources, continued education, and childcare services. If a notified offender violates their parole in any way, the HSCAT represents the community at the bond hearing to provide the presiding judge with the information the offender was given at the notification session. Prosecution is then expedited to the fullest extent of the law. This program provides an opportunity to reduce crime and recidivism.
HPD will continue events like National Night Out and “Coffee with A Cop,” to allow for informal meetings with officers. Hartsville can expect to see more officers on bicycle and foot patrols, and a new Hartsville Police Community Outreach post this spring in the former Food Lion shopping center.
The Hartsville Police Community Outreach Division is working on further initiatives in 2017 to remind residents that our officers are here to help. The fruits of this labor will empower a lasting alliance between members of law enforcement and citizens. The next EMPOWER work day is scheduled for March 25, 9am, at 320 Bell Avenue. People are invited to come join the effort. If you live near an abandoned property and would like it to be boarded, please contact the City Manager’s office at 843-383-3015. Stay updated on upcoming events sponsored by the Hartsville Police Department by visiting our website, hartsvillesc.gov, and following the City of Hartsville on social media.