SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – An Upstate community challenged by crime will be seeing more law enforcement. A new grant is allowing Spartanburg police to place two officers in the Highland area who are aiming to do more than make arrests.
This is a community where 7 News has covered multiple shootings.
“It’s just kind of heartbreaking sometimes,” said Master Patrol Officer Russell Porter. “Highland has maybe a third of the violent crimes – shootings, assaults.”
It’s the kinds of crimes he and Senior Patrol Officer Tina Hurne are trying to reduce in the Highland area.
“It’s different from regular patrol,” Hurne said. “You get more one on one with people in the community.”
They’re hoping these talks will happen on the new conversation bench at the Bethlehem Center. The wooden bench has a star representing the center, the letter ‘H’ for Highland, and a blue line for police.
“We’re told we need to sit down and see if anybody comes up to us and starts communication,” said Hurne. “If we see somebody, we know to park the car, get out and walk and come down and have a talk.”
The bench sits near the home of Whitney Smith, who is part of the Highland Neighborhood Association.
“I was about to eat my supper last night when I heard the rapid fire of an automatic weapon go off,” Smith recalled.
Officers Porter and Hurne walked along Highland Avenue looking for shell casings Thursday afternoon.
“We had the policemen here at one time – they had a little office,” Smith said. “And we wanted them to bring it back. We thought that would help out.”
A grant has now made it possible to assign two officers to Highland, specifically for community policing.
“The grant covers salaries, overtime, programs that we may get started to put on,” said Officer Porter.
The initiative is now a few weeks in and the officers say change is already evident.
“I’ve noticed that things have calmed down in the community – we’re still going to have issues. I get that,” Hurne said. “The people have been very welcoming. You’re always going to have a little bit of resistance but that’s okay because we’re going to keep trying.”
They hope making connections will also bring long term safety to the residents of Highland.
“I think it actually will decrease crime not just for the short term but for the long term,” said Officer Porter. “We’ve got a generation of kids that we can influence now that are coming up.”
The grant allowing this community policing in Highland will last for three years. In addition, other officers have been increasing patrols in the area.