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Southern Pines taking action after downtown gun violence

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The Southern Pines Downtown Park, surrounded by business and residential property, is a vital part of the town's downtown. The Southern Pines Downtown Park, surrounded by business and residential property, is a vital part of the town's downtown.
SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. -

Gun violence in downtown Southern Pines was a topic ofconversation at a community watch meeting at the town's police department Wednesdaynight.

The gathering was a regularly scheduled meeting of thedowntown neighborhood watch organization, but a recent shooting in the town'sdowntown park prompted a large attendance and lots of discussion about crimeand safety in the area.

"There's a lot of concern in the community and there shouldbe concern in the community," said Capt. Charles Campbell with the SouthernPines Police Department.

On Sunday, October 6, at 7:45 p.m., an 18-year-old young manwas shot in the downtown park. A stray bullet also went through a window of acandle shop on Northwest Broad Street. James Howard Campbell III, 16, ofAberdeen was arrested on suspicion of committing the crime.

Nonetheless, many people who live, work and own businessesin downtown have concerns about the shooting. Violent crime is unusual in thearea, and it is particularly concerning in such a public area where many peoplewalk to stores, restaurants, the park and post office, etc.

Megan Hunt who grew up in Southern Pines said the park isused a lot by the public on a daily basis and for special events. She takes herchildren there, and she said she wants reassurances that police are staying ontop of crime in downtown.

"I think it's great that everybody's talkingabout it," Hunt said. "We're not just hiding from it. Everybody's giving theiropinions on what's the best way to correct this problem. I'm glad we're beingopen about it."

She said she has seen an increase inconcerning activity at the park. For example, she saw a fight a few days beforethe shooting. She said the park is generally a safe place, but she has a fewideas about how police could make he feel even better about it.

"We need more police, but if we're cut short- they're working hard - I think cameras would be a great way. That would helpout," Hunt said. "I even think a little substation of some sort to have apolice officer in this downtown area directly."

Campbell said the police department alreadyhas an aggressive downtown patrolling program. He said a new policing approachhas also assigned a Lieutenant to focus exclusively on the downtown area. Inaddition, the police department is now using a new computer statistics programthat helps police monitor crime throughout the city in real time. Campbell saidthe program means police don't have to wait for crime information an react toit. Instead, they can take a more preventative approach he said.

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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