Kernersville News Article 9-12-2017

Members of the Kernersville Police Department are seeking voluntary compliance from local residents to help eliminate ongoing loitering issues along South Main Street.

Sgt. D.T. Wemyss said officers have been working closely with businesses in the area of New Market Plaza on South Main Street to address growing concerns associated with loitering in the area of Cookout, and have decided to use education as a first line of defense rather than enforcement. Wemyss said that at face value there is nothing wrong with a group of friends gathering at a restaurant, in a parking lot or other public place to hang out and enjoy some snacks. But, increased crowds in this area of Town have now become a matter of public safety.

 

“What began as local teens socializing at Cookout has evolved into gatherings of up to a hundred teenagers and young adults and brought with it some serious public safety concerns.

The Police Department’s primary concern is the safety of everyone involved,” said Wemyss, who went on to say that over the past year officers have responded to more than 70 calls for service directly related to these gatherings between the hours of 5:30 p.m. and 2 a.m. More specifically, officers have received calls for reckless driving, disturbances, fights in progress, injury to property, vehicle crashes, drugs and other reports of misconduct.

Wemyss said businesses have been impacted by large amounts of litter on their property and decreasing business as the number of people loitering has increased. “While meeting with friends at a parking lot may not necessarily be criminal, when paired with these types of incidents, it’s not only dangerous but can be against the law,” Wemyss said. ” The crowds that police and businesses are challenged with in this area of South Main Street fall under Town ordinance Sec 10-100, which prohibits nuisance gatherings.

A nuisance gathering is defined “as a social gathering, sporting event, game or party which is conducted on premises within the Town” which results in “disorderly conduct; illegal use of a controlled substance; public indecency; unlawful deposit of litter or refuse; the damage or destruction of property without the consent of the property owner; unlawful pedestrian or vehicular traffic; standing or parking of vehicles that obstructs the free flow of traffic on the public streets and sidewalks or that impedes the ability to render emergency services.”

The Town’s ordinance also defines a public nuisance as “excessive, unnecessary or unusual loud noise which disturbs the repose of the neighborhood; public disturbances, brawls, fights, quarrels, or any other activity resulting in conditions that annoy, injure or endanger the safety, health, comfort or repose of the neighboring residents, or results in any obscene conduct, or results in any immoral exhibition or indecent exposure by persons at the gathering and is hereby declared to be an unlawful public nuisance.” Wemyss said members of the KPD Crime Prevention Unit, Special Operations Division and Patrol Services Bureau will continue to work closely with the property owners’ and businesses in New Market Plaza, Cookout and the surrounding area to find a proactive solution to the issue. They also plan to have an increased presence during peak times in the coming weeks and will be making groups aware of their efforts and the reasons behind the regulations.

Those found to be in violation will be asked to leave the area prior to enforcement action being taken provided no other indications of criminal activity are observed. In addition, the Department’s School Resource Officers will be working through area schools to encourage students to seek alternative activities for their safety. “We are asking for voluntary compliance in an effort to maintain public safety and keep our children and other members of the public safe. The last thing our officers want is to have to issue citations or make arrests in order to gain compliance, however, enforcement action will be taken when needed,” Wemyss said.

Anyone with questions or concerns is encouraged to contact the Kernersville Police Department’s Crime Prevention Unit at (336) 996-2294 or email them at crimeprevention@toknc.com.