LAURINBURG — After months of batting around the issue of a crime consultant, Laurinburg Councilman Curtis Leak had had enough.
Leak told his fellow board members that they needed to resolve whether to hire a consultant for the Laurinburg Police Department.
“Let’s do it like this so we can put it to rest,” Leak said. “Make a motion that we hire a consultant. Every month for the last six or seven months, people coming out of the same churches come up with the same problems. We have a motion, let us vote.”
On Tuesday, in a 3 to 2 vote council decided that the city would forgo hiring a consultant for the present time. Council members Leak, Drew Williamson and Mary Jo Adams were opposed to the hiring, while Mary Evans and James Garby voted to retain a consultant.
Williamson said he wanted to first hear a review by a risk assessment consultant from the NC League of Municipalities currently working with city police.
“I am not in favor of hiring a consultant right now,” Williamson said. “Even if it is just a risk management focus at this time, I want to see what other options the League has rather than just saying I want a vote for a crime consultant. I was really hoping we would all be happy with what the League has come up.”
But Mayor Matthew Block was already unhappy with council’s direction on the issue. He said the original request was for an outside expert to help curb crime — not someone to look at liability issues within the police department.
According to Block, the crime consultant would cost the city about $50,000.
The risk assessment defeats “the whole purpose of why we brought it up and then the budget year will be past us,” Block said.
Donald Anderson, who spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting, said a risk assessment would do little to deter crime in Laurinburg.
Anderson, an employee with the state Department of Public Safety, said an outside expert would benefit the police department. Typically crime consultants are retired or semi-retired police chiefs who come into the department and not only look at numbers but also interview people in the area who have dealt with the police as well as the police themselves, supporters said.
“You can put 100 initiatives in place to combat crime in this community, but if the number of murders and other serious crimes continue to abound, then you have to ask yourselves: What are we doing wrong?” Anderson said. “What are we missing here? Why isn’t the issue getting any better?”
Pastor Michael Edds, who has repeatedly addressed council about crime, said the risk assessment was a good first step.
“I think the next step should be consultant methods and tools to bring the crime rate down,” Edds said. “I want to encourage you to do that.”
Edds added that the city is in good financial shape and can afford the expense of a consultant.
Evans said she would also like to see council allocate the money.
“We spend money on everything else and we need to lay this issue to rest and get the research done and to bring it back for us as council persons even as for the citizens,” Evans said. “You can’t put on a dollar on it.”
Councilman Garby said he was unsure sure why there was opposition to getting expert advice.
”I just feel like this is investing to make sure we are doing all we can do,” Garby said. “We can go on record so that the citizens know whose for it and whose against it and they can know you (Leak) were strongly against it and almost took it personal.”
When it was time to move on to the next agenda item, Evans interrupted to address Leak, who plans to retire next year.
“The club isn’t always going to be like this … know this,” Evans said.
“Just one more year of this,” the mayor said.
Reach Katelin Gandee at 910-506-3171