Police credit prayer walks

Published: March 6, 2007 | 5709th good news item since 2003

Residents and church and city leaders plan once again to take their message against crime to the streets during the Reclaim Longview Prayer Walk, but already that collective voice is working to reduce violent crime.

Scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 10, at Mount Olive Baptist Church, 306 S. MLK Blvd., the peaceful and prayerful march is designed to give the community a pro-active voice when it comes to protecting their neighborhood from crime.

The early spring event will be the third prayer walk sponsored by the city and the Longview Area Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.

Although violent crime occurs in all areas of the city, the latest walk will target the Oden/Timpson Street area in South Longview.

The six-month old Unity in the Community movement sponsored two prayer walks last year through neighborhoods where homicides happened.

The walk in March is planned along a similar route where two people were killed, one in 2005 and another in

2006.

Longview Police Chief J.B. McCaleb said since the first walk, the number of police calls from residents has gone up, indicating an increased participation between the residents and peace officers.

“Walks like these give people hope,” McCaleb said. “It shows people in the neighborhood we are concerned and encourages people to work with police in the neighborhoods to report suspicious activity or crime.”

During the March walk, participants plan to step up their efforts to fight crime by stopping to meet people they pass on the street.

The Rev. Keven Johnson, pastor of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Longview, said this year the ministerial alliance plans to attack crime with a one-two punch: giving out tracts on salvation and providing information about police sub-stations.

“This is an opportunity for us to go out in mass numbers and win people over for God, and to let citizens know the police are here to help them take back their neighborhoods,” Johnson said.

Longview Mayor Jay Dean, who marched in the two previous prayer walks and plans to walk in this one, said typically many people in the neighborhood join in.

“We want to develop relations with the citizens so that when they see crime or suspicious things going on in their neighborhoods, they can let the police know,” Dean said.

Walk organizers hope to encourage people in their neighborhoods to take their neighborhoods back, Dean said.

Prompted by escalating violence last spring, including drive-by shootings, the then newly elected mayor asked the City Council to include funding for Citizens on Patrol and a revitalized Police Area Representative program. The community police program unites law enforcement with neighborhood citizens to fight crime.

In 1993, when the PAR program was created, six community officers were on staff. A subsequent administration, in 2001, decreased the number of officers from six to three. Now, with the City Council’s blessing, plans are to expand the number once again to six — one officer in each patrol beat, McCaleb said.

During 2005 and 2006, there were 17 murders in Longview. One of those occurred on Open Street, and a second occurred nearby. Six murders were solved.

“These were not stranger crimes. The victims knew their assailants,” McCaleb said.

This year, it looks as if the increased number of officers combined with resident participation is helping to curb the violence.

In 2005, 63,503 calls for police service were logged. In 2006, 66,412 calls were recorded for a 4.6 percent increase.

Crime occurs because of opportunity, desire and ability. When you take away any one of those, crime decreases, Mccabe said.

“In this case, with the citizens working with the police, the opportunity for crime has decreased,” McCaleb said. “We are very appreciative of working with the ministerial alliance, the City Council and the mayor, but the majority of the credit goes to the citizens.”

Published in Community
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