HAMLET, NC — A plan to fight growing concerns about gangs in one small, local town was voted down by city council.
Hamlet police say gangs have been tied to more than 500 crimes just in the last three years; from murders to drugs.
Threats of gang violence prompted leaders to cancel the town’s 4th of July celebration last summer.
The threats involved retaliation for the murder of Tierrell Martin in June; which investigators say was also gang-related and is still unsolved.
“It didn’t start getting that bad until maybe a couple years [ago,]” said Hamlet resident Howard Estridge.
In March, Hamlet police asked city council for money to hire an officer dedicated to gangs and drugs, with a salary of less than $35,000. Tuesday night, town leaders decided not to approve the request.
“Well it’s a disappointment. I think we could maybe work on trying to get some money to bring that in because it would be helpful,” lifelong resident Vincent Scott said.
The decision came down to money. “Being in a small town, our resources are limited,” City manager Jonathan Blanton told Channel 9. He said the town is making several cutbacks and council could only approve about one-third of funding requests from city departments.
Blanton added leaders may be able to approve some funding requests in the fall, when they know how much revenue comes in.
“It is frustrating that we’re not able to give our all our departments everything they ask for, but the city council and I are both confidant they have everything they need to ensure our citizens are safe,” said Blanton.
Police chief Scott Waters told Eyewitness News anchor Liz Foster he is disappointed the city council didn’t approve funding for the officer position.
Hamlet’s city council also did not approve the police chief’s request for money to buy 10 assault-style rifles for officers and four cameras that can be placed in areas with high crime.
The Richmond county sheriff started a gangs task force in December. Hamlet leaders told Channel 9 police will continue to work with local and state agencies on gangs.
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