“Kinston passes the eye test” said a citizen this morning. And most people see and feel the transformation that’s happening throughout our community. Downtown is experiencing a renaissance, utilities are about to be lowered and baseball is one “yes” away from coming back. However, continuing to spread through social media are a couple of websites who depict Kinston and many other communities in a negative light. Below is a series of communication between the City of Kinston and at least one website (homesnacks.net). We have reached out to the Attorney General’s office to launch an investigation.
If you’re sick and tired of Kinston being unnecessarily drug through the mud, then please feel free to reach out to these contacts and let them know how you feel:
They hosted their first “Teen Town Hall” at the Woodmen Community Center.
9 On Your Side has covered the youth advocacy group “Kinston Teens” since October.
Founder Chris Suggs created the group as a way to keep teens off the streets and invested in their community.
Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, Kinston Public Safety Director Bill Johnson, Lenoir County Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Mazingo and other school and county officials participated; it is the first time youth have had the chance to hold their leaders accountable.
“What you’re seeing right now are the future leaders of our community.” Mayor BJ Murphy said.
“I mean these kids really care about their community; they want to hold government accountable but at the same time they’re getting into the trenches and they’re rolling up their sleeves too.”
The group’s concerns were heard loud and clear. This town hall meeting will be followed up with sit downs with not only the Director of Public Safety, but lawmakers in Raleigh to address their concerns.
“I’m truly pleased about how this event turned out.” Kinston Teens President Chris Suggs said. “I think there’s nowhere else we can go but up.”
On Oct. 13, three Kinston leaders held a meeting at City Hall to discuss short- and long-term plans to prevent violent crimes in the city.
For the most part, it seems like improvements have been made since then, residents are saying.
In the meeting last month, Mayor B.J. Murphy, Kinston Department of Public Safety Bill Johnson and Mayor Pro Tem Joe Tyson discussed a five-part initiative, with the focus based on religious groups, youth, businesses, other government agencies and public and private partnerships through Crime Stoppers.
“The city is always looking for ways to reduce crime,” Murphy said. “The most common denominator in fighting crime, however, is an engaged community. Therefore, we seek the input of the community to report suspicious activity, engage religious leaders and take back our streets.”
Kinston High School junior Janiya Miller said she’s seen definitive change, especially since the candlelight vigil on Oct. 21, a day the mayor proclaimed as one of mourning and prayer in Kinston.
“I think from everyone coming together and praying, a lot has changed,” Miller said. “There haven’t been any fights at school, there hasn’t been any crime around here except for a minor lockdown (due to reports of a weapon by the Bojangles on North Herritage Street, leading to the arrest of two suspects on Nov. 7.)
“The vigil made a tremendous difference, with everyone coming together and walking by faith, not by sight. The presence of God has made things a lot calmer here. For me to be a junior and see everyone coming together and pressing through, it’s really a good thing.”
Kinston resident Anita Starkey said she commended the work of Kinston High School freshman Chris Suggs, who started Kinston Teens last month to empower the youth, giving them a chance to figure out solutions on fixing the city as well. Suggs, who held an interest meeting on Oct. 21, will have his first official meeting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at the Kinston-Lenoir County Public Library.
“Chris Suggs is doing a very good thing and I want my son to be part of that group,” Starkey said. “This is a young man who wants to be a part of the solution of the crime and everything that’s going on to better the city and I think it’s an awesome opportunity. He’s going to need a lot of support to make sure the project doesn’t fall to the ground.
“As far as how I feel about the city, I’ve seen an increase of what the police are doing to combat crime and making more people aware of situations and what’s going on. I think it’s a good thing as far as making the community aware and taking proactive actions. I think it’s the right step.”
Suggs said while his meeting Tuesday will be centralized on the community service aspect, there will be plenty of focus on the crime aspect, which he felt hasn’t changed too much.
“There have still been shootings and killings here,” Suggs said. “I was expecting a more concrete action from the (Oct. 13) meeting and see more police representation. This is a good start, but I was hoping to see more.”
Murphy has also looked outside of Kinston for assistance, holding a meeting Monday with several crime enforcement leaders, including U.S. Marshall Scott Parker, ATF Special Agent Wayne Dixie and N.C. Department of Public Safety Special Agent J. Eric Swain. Murphy said the agencies are all looking intently in providing change to Kinston.
“All of these entities have a relationship already and have been discussing issues in our community, but to have all of them at the same table in Kinston working on solutions in crime is a great sign of things to come in Kinston,” Murphy said. “Everyone from the governor’s office to federal and state agencies are involved and committed to reducing crime and increasing prosperity.
“The community will see a change in a reduction in individuals trying to invoke fear. Most of these operations will be under the radar, but just know they are here and we will be locking folks up and sending them away for good.”
Among the ideas discussed in the private meeting was a grant for KDPS to supply additional overtime hours, which Johnson said would go a long way.
“If we’re granted overtime, not only will we have more officers out on the streets, but additional operations will be planned,” Johnson said. “Overall in this meeting, you had different guys come here and want to work on the city of Kinston. It wasn’t just concentrated on a law enforcement effort — we’re really trying to take action to get the community involved. We’ve seen progress with the public and want to further that, but we need collaborative cooperation with the community.”
Parker said the U.S. Marshalls have worked with KDPS regularly and the conference assisted in taking the partnership to another level.
“This meeting enhanced the relationship we already have with Kinston and maybe bring other partners to the table, including non-law enforcement,” Parker said. “One of our goals is to make Kinston one of the safest cities in Eastern North Carolina.”
On Tuesday, Lisa Sylvia, director of The Gate, will hold a community prayer gathering outside of the organization’s headquarters at 7 p.m. Sylvia said she wanted to continue the practice after last month’s vigil where more than 500 came out to pray over Kinston.
“It was such a wonderful time with everyone gathering together,” Sylvia said. “The Lord put it on my heart to continue it and I contacted Ryan Vernon at 902 Church, along with other leaders, who agreed that we needed this event. We’ll have the same format as last time.”
Sylvia said she believes there’s a sense of unity and hopes the community continues to pray.
“There is power in praying together in His name,” Sylvia said. “Sometimes we do not see the results of prayer immediately, but we are called to pray without ceasing.”
Special thanks to Clark Tutt and Martha Bishop at TACC-9 for recording the press conference held on Monday, October 13th. We announced several items:
1 – Day of Mourning & Prayer on Tuesday, 10/21
2 – Teenagers Social Media Campaign – #IHeartKinston
3 – To Catch A Criminal $500 reward featured in the Kinston Free Press
4 – Choice Neighborhoods Grant Application
5 – Revised Crime Stoppers to sustain the To Catch A Criminal program and more
A group of people met Monday morning in an attempt to take back our city from the bad guys. Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy led an impassioned press conference at City Hall so well-attended that chairs needed to be brought into council chambers to seat residents, citizens and a good-looking group of high school students. Those folks were on hand to hear the young mayor, the city’s veteran director of public safety and a well-seasoned city councilman discuss plans to curb crime in Kinston.
After a three-year interlude in which crime actually abated a bit in Kinston, our city has been swamped lately with a variety of crimes that has sullied her name throughout Eastern North Carolina.
The message from the city officials was simple, but powerful: We’re not taking this any longer.
Murphy asked those assembled to begin the daily battle against crime with prayer before presenting his five-point plan to fight crime to the crowd. Kinston Department of Public Safety Director Bill Johnson asked the public — which has been very hesitant to help our city’s police, for one reason or another — to come forward to help slow crime. And city councilman Joe Tyson didn’t mince words in his presentation. “I am begging for your help,” Tyson said, making eye contact with as many people as he could while drawing out the sentence. “This has to be a community effort.” Tyson summed up what was the beauty and simplicity of Monday’s press conference: government is not being increased to make our city safer; frankly, we’ve all been taxed to death and it’s time for those agencies to step up and do their jobs more effectively.
Tyson’s (and Murphy’s, before him) appeal to the public is for us, the public, to step up and take responsibility for our city, not to depend on municipal government to do the job.
That’s why it’s important that if you know who shot someone, or broke into a home or assaulted a victim, speak up! Our police department works very hard but even the best police department in the world can’t be successful if those who can help, won’t.
Murphy is to be commended for his actions and attempted solutions; this isn’t some election year stumping where he’s trying to win your vote. Murphy hasn’t even finished the first year of his second term — he is trying to clean up the streets of his hometown. The same can be said for Johnson, who is in the final months of his career before he retires and for Tyson, who so passionately loves Kinston he nearly broke into tears Monday begging for the public’s help.
There were many positives from Monday’s presser, including a large group of Kinston High School students on hand to support the mayor’s initiatives and a packed chambers full of people ready to help.
But let’s not let this eagerness to take our city back end with hashtags and good intentions. We the people of Kinston can stop the criminals in our city.
Mayor B.J. Murphy talks with KDPS Director Bill Johnson and Mayor Pro Tem Joe Tyson as they hold a press conference with an update on crime Monday at City Hall.
Janet S. Carter / The Free Press
By Junious Smith III / Staff Writer
Published: Monday, October 13, 2014 at 10:17 PM.
E pluribus unum — out of many, one.The Latin phrase adorned on the Seal of the United States could have been used to describe the initiative of three city leaders in Monday’s press conference at City Hall.
Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, Kinston Department of Public Safety Director Bill Johnson and Mayor Pro Tem Joe Tyson discussed short- and long-term plans to prevent crime in the city, but also sought the assistance of the residents.
“When you look at the community, the only way to solve a problem of this magnitude is to engage them,” Murphy said. “The government and department of public safety has their roles, but through alignment with the community, we would be much better suited to solve the issue.”
A five-part initiative was discussed in the conference with a focus based towards religious groups, youth, businesses, other government agencies and public and private partnerships through Crime Stoppers.
Murphy proclaimed Tuesday, Oct. 21, as a Day of Mourning and Prayer in Kinston, and a candlelight vigil will be hosted at 7:30 p.m. at Kinston High School.
“Although the City of Kinston isn’t organizing this event, feel free to call my office at 252-939-3115 if you’d like to help,” he said, “and we’ll put you in touch with the event’s organizers.”
A group of students from Kinston High School also launched its #IHeartKinston campaign, where they will look to use the “hashtag” on social media networks — such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — to share their love for the city and spread the word.
Melissa Glen, a senior at Kinston High School, said she hopes to see her peers and others carry on with the hashtag.
“We have several tweets going now,” Glen said. “The goal is to get a lot of students involved to change Kinston and keep the trend moving.”
Today, the “To Catch A Criminal” campaign, which was discussed Monday, was launched. With the little bank and The Free Press helping to restore the operation, each Tuesday there will be known criminals KDPS is looking to take off the streets featured in the paper.
If a resident has information which could lead to an arrest, the resident will not be named, but will receive $500. Also, local station TACC-9 will be coordinating a series of in-depth conversations with Johnson while seeking assistance from the community in providing information.
“We’ve had cases where witnesses or victims didn’t want to speak, or gave us false names,” Johnson said. “We can only do so much without the cooperation of the community.”
Long-term, Murphy said the city is looking to receive a Choice Neighborhood Grant for a two-year community planning process to create a detailed transformational plan.
“Essentially, it would create a road map for future redevelopment,” Murphy said. “The grant’s focus is on housing people and neighborhoods. More specifically, it could replace some public housing with high-quality, low-density (and) mixed-income housing; focus on workforce training; and increase the potential for economic opportunities.”
Tyson said the city is also working on reviving its Crime Stoppers program. Shortly after the end of the meeting, nine people approached Tyson asking to volunteer.
“The people have looked at this as a good idea and want to contribute,” Tyson said. “I’m pleased with the way the community wants to step up and see what they can do to combat crime.”
Alexa Chapman, a freshman at Kinston High School, said she learned a lot from the press conference.
“There were new plans made to help the community and bring Kinston back, and we have to have youth cooperation,” she said.
Kinston City Manager Tony Sears said the conference will open up further discussions in the future with the city leaders and residents.
“Obviously, we can’t begin and end just like this,” Sears said. “There has to be concrete actions and steps to follow.”
Maya Swinson, principal of Rochelle Middle School, said the discussion was a step in the right direction and hopes to see more progress.
“A lot of the criminal activities happen in the neighborhoods of the children around this area,” Swinson said. “I would like to know what considerations are being made to support the neighborhoods. It’s great they’re doing the candlelight vigil at Kinston High, but there are parents who have trouble making it to the parent-teacher conferences here, much less take a trip there. I would like to see more vigils where the actions occurred and the city leaders meeting the community where they are for support.”
Kinston resident Carlos Parker, who coaches and mentors in the community, said he believes the leaders are taking the wrong approach.
“They’re approaching this problem from the outside in,” Parker said. “What they need to do is come and see people in the trenches and work with those already trying to help the community. The leaders need to come to the heart of Kinston. I see they’re putting in an effort with this conference, but how can you work on the problem and don’t really know what’s going on? They’re going on second- and third-party information and that’s usually watered down.
“The gang unit they have aren’t really experts on the gangs. The real experts are the kids. Until the leaders get together and get into the trenches to solve the problem, it’ll just be a repetitive cycle.”
Another Kinston resident, Edna Dixon-Lawson, said she was wondering what the city was trying to do in regard to preventive methods to stop crime before it could start.
“Where are the guns coming from and what is being done there,” Dixon-Lawson asked. “What activities are being put in place to make some of the citizens feel human, when there’s no jobs or apparent job training? We shouldn’t just be talking about jails — what is being done to prevent them from going there in the first place?”
Murphy said if the residents are willing to work with the officials, significant progress will be made in Kinston.
“If the community embraces the challenges, you will absolutely see a better Kinston,” Murphy said. “I can’t speak on crime being completely deterred, but with everyone working together and getting involved, there will be a major impact.”
Kinston leaders presented a plan to reduce gang violence and shootings in the city council hall on Monday.
Mayor B.J. Murphy introduced a plan he worked on with Kinston Police Chief Bill Johnson and Mayor Pro Tem, Joseph Tyson. The plans contains five parts, including hiring more officers to the gang unit, and a crime prevention hotline.
According to the mayor, prayer, as well as a social media campaign called “#IHeartKinston” are some strategies the city is taking to reduce gang violence.
Since the beginning of the year, there have been 29 shooting cases in the city. There were 33 victims in those cases, three of the victims died. Of those 33 victims, 28 were affiliated with gangs in the city, according to Chief Johnson. This means the shootings were almost entirely gang related.
The leaders hope a crime prevention hotline will provide the police the tips they need to crack down on criminals. There will be a $500 reward for information leading to arrests.
“We all know that crime has a price to pay,” Mayor Murphy said. “And now snitching is not only acceptable, it’s profitable in Kinston.”
Also, on Tuesdays, the local paper will air a wanted poster of one of Kinston’s most wanted known criminals.
It was a packed house, community members and students from Kinston High School filled the room.
However, there wasn’t all agreement with the way leaders were tackling the violence problem.
“They hired four more officers and five kids get shot the following week,” said Larry Wayne. “How are four more officers going to help the situation?”
Wayne suggested the problem was already out of the city’s control and that state or federal aid was needed to reduce violence.
“I would just like to see more done in the interest and well being of the public,” said Guy Basden,
Basden suggested the problem was economic, and that crime wouldn’t improve until more job opportunities came to the city.
KINSTON, N.C. -The City of Kinston unveils a new five-point plan to address crime in the community.
Department of Public Safety Director, Bill Johnson, says in 2014 his officers have responded to 29 shooting calls. Johnson says since expanding the gang unit, officers have made seven arrests and taken 6 guns off the street.
On Monday, Johnson joined other city leaders including Mayor B.J. Murphy to announce a multi-layered plan to reduce crime in Kinston.
Murphy says part one of the plan calls on religious leaders to not only pray over the city, but assist in creating a positive culture in the church and the community.
“Spreading this message of love and hope will create a culture of positive energy throughout our community,” said Murphy.
Other parts of the plan include applying for a federal “Choice Neighborhood” grant and calling on businesses to help with the city’s growth.
Councilman Joseph Tyson also asked for the public’s help in recreating the Crimestoppers program. Tyson says the city is looking for people to help on the program’s board.
Murphy says another key part of the crime reduction plan is the “Ask Me Why I Heart Kinston” campaign. Dozens of Kinston High School students will utilize social media to find, share, and encourage positive things they see in the community.
“I’m concerned that some of my peers are not focusing on what’s important. All of us have times that we get off track and I think with the mayor working so hard, I think they are going to get back on track,” said KHS senior and #IHeartKinston participant, Emleigh Hughes.
KHS senior and #IHeartKinston participant, Kianna Sanders, says since her freshman year she has had to attend too many funerals. Sanders says it time for her peers to help each other stay out of trouble.
“I definitely think it’s important for the youth to take back their community and set an example for upcoming generations,” said Sanders.
The final part of the plan to reduce crime involves re-launch the city’s “To Catch a Criminal” program. Every week KDPS will release information on a criminal they are trying to get off the street. If a person provides police with information that leads to an arrest, they will receive $500 in cash. City leaders say tipsters can remain anonymous if they are afraid to come forward.
The City of Kinston unveiled their plans to fight crime in the city Monday morning.
Mayor BJ Murphy announced initiatives the city and community will be implementing in the coming days.
Murphy was joined at a press conference by Public Safety Director Bill Johnson.
Both men say gangs are a problem in Kinston. This year, 32 people have been wounded by gunfire in the city.
Murphy says on October 21st there will be a day a mourning and prayer, along with a candlelight vigil at Kinston High School. The mayor called on churches and religious leaders to help them take back the streets.
They are also working on a plan to get high school students more involved in helping to fight crime.
Police are also going to re-start Crimestoppers, an anonymous program for information that leads to arrests of suspects.
Johnson says most of the victims and suspects in the shootings this year were on probation, or pre-trial release for previous crimes. He says this “catch and release” with the court system just isn’t working.
The plan also includes the “to catch a criminal” program, which will feature wanted Kinston criminals in the paper.
Murphy says any information you have about them could reward you $500.00.
Kinston also recently added more officers to their gang unit.
City leaders hope to be awarded a choice neighborhoods grant which would help the city redevelop neighborhoods and replace some public housing with high quality, low density, mixed income housing.
Published: Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 05:20 PM.
Three years ago, following an unprecedented homicide spree that saw some of our fellow city residents gunned down in cold blood, officials from The Free Press and the little bank sat down and came up with a plan to attempt to curb crime in our beloved city.
The idea that emerged from the meetings was “Catch a Criminal,” a weekly feature in The Free Press. The plan was as simple: run a photo provided by the Kinston Department of Public Safety in our newspaper with the little bank providing $500 cash to whoever made a call that led to the arrest of the perpetrator. The caller would remain anonymous — and our streets would become safer.
Thanks to Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, City Manager Tony Sears and City Councilman Joe Tyson, the program is being revived. A couple of weeks ago, those three brought The Free Press and the little bank back to the table — along with local cable access television station TACC-9 — to bring “Catch a Criminal” back.
Beginning in Tuesday’s edition of The Free Press, a photo provided by KDPS Director Bill Johnson will appear on Page 2. The photo and the information accompanying it will be of someone the KDPS would really like to have behind bars.
All you have to do, dear reader, is call the phone number provided by the KDPS if you know where the wanted person is. Your anonymity is guaranteed. As soon as the KDPS arrests the person and they’re behind bars — you’ll have your money within 24 hours.
It’s that simple. When we ran this program in 2011, the KDPS arrested 23 of the 24 people featured in “Catch a Criminal.” The 24th was eventually captured a few months later. Thousands of dollars were earned by anonymous folks who helped clean up our streets. The program was so successful it was discontinued after a few months because the KDPS ran out of candidates for “Catch a Criminal.”
TACC-9 General Manager Martha Bishop is planning a series on her station to highlight the program and to help put more law-breakers behind bars.
It goes without saying that “Catch a Criminal” would not exist without the good-hearted folks at the little bank — especially President and CEO Rob Jones and Senior Vice President Scott Newton — who are as tired as the rest of us of the crime that is sullying the good name of our city. Jones and Newton are two people who put their money where their mouth is … and isn’t that refreshing in this day and age of folks who want to complain all the time but do nothing to improve our city? Kudos to Jones, Newton, Margaret Williams, Jeremy Jones and the folks at the little bank for supporting this program.
But this program will not enjoy the success it achieved in 2011 without your help. Be sure to pick up a copy of Tuesday’s Free Press, look at the photo — and earn the easiest $500 you’ll ever put in your pocket. At the same time, you’ll know you’re helping clean up the streets of Kinston.
Bryan C. Hanks is the editor of The Free Press; his column appears in this space every Sunday. You can reach him at 252-559-1074 or at Bryan.Hanks@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BCHanks.