Youth task force idea fails to gain Laurinburg council support

By: Scott Witten - Editor

LAURINBURG — Michael Edds thought revamping an old concern —how Laurinburg deals with crime — might find a receptive audience among the newly installed city council.

But Edds, the pastor of Cross Pointe Church in Laurinburg, left the meeting the same way that he arrived — with a lot of ideas but little buy in from council.

“I tried to present a proactive idea tonight to help our youth and community,” Edds said after Tuesday’s meeting. “The council has no plans to deal with the crime rate and apparently are not open to any suggestions.”

Edds had recommended that Laurinburg form a task force that included council members Drew Williamson, Mary Evans and himself to explore with others how best to provide recreational opportunities for young people.

According to Edds, such an effort would go a long way to reducing crime, shootings and gang violence in the city.

“We can meet with the board of education, county and some others and see if this is a possibility,” Edds said. “It is worth a try.”

The former Laurinburg police chaplain told council that the task force could look for ways to avoid the expense of new recreation center by having the schools to provide buildings after-school and the county Parks and Recreation possibly staff the effort.

“You can have a school in each neighborhood that is open up after hours that is funded by the board of education, parks and recreation and the city and doesn’t take a big chunk off of anybody. At the same time, addressing our problem with crime because kids have nothing to do.”

Edds said he has been involved in similar youth projects that saw crime and unemployment rates drop. He said one program eventually gained more than $6 million in grants and won a national award.

“I have a heart for the kids of this city,” Edds said, “but I’ve also learned that you can’t do it all by yourself. It is going to take a team approach.”

But council members took no action and told Edds that a task force made up only of city officials may not be well received by other boards in the county.

Council member Mary Jo Adams suggested Edds also speak with county and school leaders first.

“Otherwise it would seems like the city of Laurinburg was telling them what to do,” Adams said. “You need to do some groundwork.”

Williamson agreed, saying that Edds should make a similar presentation to a panel like the county’s Park and Recreation Advisory Board.

“I think your ideas have a lot of merit, but I would like it to get some more traction,” Williamson said.

Mayor Matthew Block said the proposed task force may be something that council considers during its retreat in January. He recommended that Edds draft a written proposal.

“It is a lot to ask to commit to and they don’t really have a good understanding,” Block said. “I’m not trying to throw a wet blanket on it. But without any background and to pick out which two that you want to be on a task force is a little bit unusual.”

Council member Curtis Leak said Edds should share his suggestions with the Laurinburg Crime and Drug Committee that includes representatives of many of the entities that would help create the proposed project.

Edds appeared angered by council’s failure to immediately appoint the task force.

“If you don’t want to do it, it is fine, but I’m asking what are you going to do about this crime rate that keeps going up?” he said. “I’ve been coming here for three years and we have the fourth highest crime rate in the nation. Something has got to be done.”

But Adams questioned Edds’ crime statistics for Laurinburg.

“You come up and give us these statistics that are … I don’t know where you get them, but they are different from what our police chief reports,” she said. “We have a police chief and a very capable and excellent police department and they have been working on this.”

Adams said Edds had been before council some 17 times.

“I know there are ways to make things happen, but coming to this council once a month and saying the same things is not the way to make it happen.”

Still council member Mary Evans said she hoped council would find a way to work with Edds.

“We don’t need to turn any ideas away,” she said.


Scott Witten


Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023

Reach Scott Witten at 910-506-3023