by David Anderson
Several Kinston business leaders are so fed up with the recent spate of violent crime, they are willing to give the city police department extra funds to combat the problem.
“Do you need funds, do you need support. … Not only this group, but the entire town is ready to take our town back,” said John Marston, principal owner of John Marston Insurance.
Marston, along with Kenneth Blizzard, vice president of Commercial Flooring and Design, and C. Felix Harvey III gathered some of the area’s heavyweights — local businesspeople, law enforcement officials and elected leaders — at the Kinston-Lenoir County Visitors and Information Center on Tuesday.
“We could spend half a million dollars to get the best equipment, but the No. 1 thing that would help is the citizens knowing how to help (police) without snitching on themselves,” Mayor B.J. Murphy said.
Former Public Safety Director Greg Smith, who now works for a private security firm, said dilapidated houses are a major driver of crime. He said some landlords have realized an easy way to make money is to purchase a house, and regardless of the condition, rent it to someone for $200 or $300 a month, and “run it into the ground.”
Gordon Vermillion of Five Star Food Service was shocked to hear the state legislature had recently blocked passage of a law that would require the licensing of landlords, something many cities, including Kinston, have pushed for to help bring properties up to code.