SALISBURY, N.C. -- Gun violence in Salisbury has some city and county officials considering drastic measures to get a handle on the rise in crime, a takeover of the Salisbury Police Department by the Rowan County Sheriff's Office.
"It's sad if you've grown up here and you see the deterioration that has happened in this city," said Councilman Kenneth Hardin.
Hardin says a recent meeting with members of the Rowan County Commission is where the idea came from.
"I'm not advocating the Sheriff's department take over forever, we are down some-- a lot of positions in the police, people are paying taxes to feel safe, people aren't safe in this town," he declared.
Hardin grew up in the city's West End, an area where gun violence has become commonplace.
"A bullet came from down the street right through my trees," said longtime West End resident, BIll Turner. "No point in moving, just running from the situation."
A recent wave of shootings has forced many in the community to take notice. The City and County joined forces to over a $20,000 reward for an arrest in the death of 7-year-old Ayanna Allen, shot to death while in bed.
"I'm tired of people marching, marching is doing nothing," said a frustrated Councilman Hardin.
He says the SPD is down nearly 20 police officers. Sheriff's deputies have been pulling double duties in the last few weeks to fill the vacancies. Deputies complete their full-time shifts with the Sheriff's office, then report to SPD to work.
Bill Turner says he is starting to see more sheriff's deputies on patrol on the West End, but he refuses to live in fear.
"I pray, go to bed, and ask the Lord to take care of me, and that's what he does, I'm not afraid," he declared.
Hardin says the SPD/RCSO partnership costs taxpayers more than $100,000. He thinks it makes sense for the Sheriff's Department to take over completely until SPD is fully staffed and builds better community relations.
"The Sheriff is very well respected in the black community; he's very well respected in the city; I think he understands the dynamics of what's going on," Hardin said. "The relationship between the black community and the police department is poor here, there's no communication, there's no trust."
Hardin says he hopes egos and pride from those critical of his idea won't stand in the way of him putting this issue on council's agenda.
City Spokesperson Linda McElroy said in a statement, "this idea has no traction". She added that no Salisbury City officials were present for the discussion where this idea was presented.
McElroy stated, "There are no plans in place for the Sheriff’s Office to “take over” the Salisbury Police Department."
Sheriff Auten declined to comment on the idea but says his department will continue to support SPD and any of the other police departments within the county that need their assistance.
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