KFP Our Opinion: This is our city — let’s take it back

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.

Now, let’s get out there and do it.

KFP: City takes on crime and violence with a vengence

Mayor BJ Murphy, City of Kinston










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.”


Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.



WCTI 12: Kinston leaders present plan to reduce violent crime


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.

By Kyle Horan

WNCT 9: Kinston leaders unveil new plan to tackle crime

 Greenville, NC | News | Weather | Sports – WNCT.com



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.

Posted: Oct 13, 2014 11:34 AM EDT
Updated: Oct 13, 2014 8:00 PM EDT


WITN 7: Kinston Mayor unveils five-part plan to fight crime



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.

Updated: Mon 6:57 PM, Oct 13, 2014

KFP: Hanks: ‘Catch a Criminal’ returns Tuesday

By Bryan C. Hanks / Editor

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.

KFP: Ready to ride: New equipment in place at Holloway Recreation Center


Streaks of sand are evidence of recent play on the new equipment at Holloway Park on Thursday.

Photo by Janet S. Carter / The Free Press

By Junious Smith III / Staff writer
Published: Thursday, October 9, 2014 at 07:14 PM.

A park enjoyed hundreds each day has become even more attractive to residents in the city.

Holloway Park has had new equipment installed, including new playground equipment and a football scoreboard.

Bill Ellis, director of the Kinston-Lenoir County Parks and Recreation department, said the renovations began in July and there should be more around the time school lets out.

“Right now, we’re working on raising money for a new concession stand and outdoor bathrooms, which would be completed by summer,” Ellis said. “One of the goals of the mayor and city council was to improve Holloway — the recreation department saw a need and it was supported.”

Melissa Morgan, director of the Holloway Recreation Center, said there will be a few things done to also approve appearance at the park.

“The fencing around the pool is going to be removed and there will be some black fencing put together as far as the beautification,” Morgan said.  “Also, the inside of the building is painted every year.”

Kinston City Councilman Robbie Swinson said he hopes to see even more changes to Holloway in the future.

“I’m glad we’re making changes and improvements here,” Swinson said. “A concession stand would be a real benefit to the residents and would be particularly useful during the football and softball seasons. We had some concerns from children about the diving boards, which were taken out because of pool regulations requiring a certain depth in the pool. I don’t know what will happen there to bring them back and don’t know the cost of another pool, but time will see.

“It would also be nice if we could get donors in the community to help carry the cost so we could have the pool cased similar to the Woodmen. I’d like to see that happen so there would be another pool the community could use year-round.”

Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy said comments from residents helped fuel the changes.

“The city of Kinston desires to have safe, reliable equipment for our children to use, which is why we made it a priority for upgrades at Holloway,” Murphy said. “It’s always important for the citizens to continue engaging in dialogue with the local government about needs in a specific area, block, and in this case, playground. We appreciate the feedback, which is one of the reasons this became a high priority for us.”

Kinston resident Patrice Johnson said the changes were evident, especially with the playground.

“I’m glad they’ve not only put the swings out, but also the ones for the babies,” Johnson said. “They’ve got better equipment here that’s far from rundown and the kids seem to enjoy it.”

My’Ayana Moore, 9, said the playground stuck out to her immediately.

“It’s beautiful,” she said. “I like how they decorated it and how the stairs look. It’s colorful and beautiful.”

Zy’Kia Moore, 8, enjoyed the new structure as well.

“I think it’s pretty,” she said. “I like being able to slide on the slides and swing on the swings.”

Kinston City Councilman Sammy Aiken put Kinston’s recreation department in high regard.

“People say there’s nothing for the children to do here, and the recreation department Kinston has is one of the best in the state,” Aiken said. “There are a lot of activities here and hopefully, people will come out and make sure the facilities are up to par.”

Skeet Davis, an assistant director at Holloway and a decorated middle school coach, said the renovations will give the rec center and park even more versatility.

“It’s good to have the changes because we cater to a very large amount of people each day,” Davis said. “On a day where there aren’t any activities going on, we might have 200 to 300 kids out here.

Sometimes, the fences will be packed when there are games going on and there could be around 600 or 700. There are also multiple uses here besides the games. You could have a family reunion on one side and a wedding on another. J. Lin Dawson was going to have his (Coley Little STEM) leadership camp here before moving it to J.H. Sampson. We help a lot of people, and now even more people can use the facilities.”

There will be an event held in the near future according to Morgan.

“On (Saturday) Oct. 18, Kiss 102 will be holding a Stop The Violence rally from 1 to 3 p.m. at the center,” she said.

If you would like to give a donation to the Holloway Recreation Center, call Ellis at 252-560-1050.
Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.

Press Conference Announement

Contact: Christina Alphin, City Clerk

City of Kinston Mayor Announces Press Conference

The City of Kinston will hold a press conference on Monday, October 13, 2014, at 10:00 a.m. in the Council Chambers located at 207 E. King Street. The topic of discussion will be an update on recent crime and other initiatives the City and community will be taking to address these issues. Please note the press conference is open to the public, but questions will be limited to media.
For more information or handicap accessibility requests, please call the Kinston City Clerk, Christina Alphin, at (252) 939-3115.


George Washington’s Earnest Prayer

Six years before he became our nation’s first President, George Washington offered this prayer to the Governors of the first 13 states. Today, during our Chamber’s Legislative Breakfast I read the following asking everyone to bow their heads for the last paragraph.

The Prayer below was written by Washington at Newburgh, New York, at the close of the Revolutionary War on June 14, 1783. It was sent to the thirteen governors of the newly freed states in a “Circular Letter Addressed to the Governors of all the States on the Disbanding of the Army.”


I have thus freely declared what I wished to make known, before I surrendered up my public trust to those who committed it to me. The task is now accomplished. I now bid adieu to your Excellency, as the chief magistrate of your State, at the same time I bid a last farewell to the cares of office and all the employments of public life.

It remains, then, to be my final and only request that your Excellency will communicate these sentiments to your legislature at their next meeting, and that they may be considered the legacy of one, who has ardently wished, on all occasions, to be useful to his country, and who, even in the shade of retirement, will not fail to implore the divine benediction on it.

I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow-citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for brethren who have served in the field; and finally that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.