Police Chief Yarborough addresses recent violence

Dec. 20, 2012 @ 05:00 AM

Police Chief Ronnie Yarborough made an unscheduled appearance before Sanford City Council Tuesday, answering questions about the recent gun violence throughout town.   

Since early November, two murders have been reported, along with nearly a dozen other shooting incidents. Councilman James Williams asked Yarborough at the council's meeting Tuesday to speak about what the city and residents can do to curtail the violence.

Yarborough said he wouldn't speak to any individual case that might be pending in court, but often the police are aware of who is involved.

"With so many of these shootings, we know who they are," he said. "Basically, they are retaliating against one another. Their parents know what is going on. The best and first thing is parents need to take some control over their kids."

The police have tough restrictions on what they can and can't do, he said, and often witnesses or victims will retaliate with violence and not cooperate with authorities.

"It seems to me that the people involved in the shootings have been involved for quite some time," Yarborough said. "They don't face a lot of consequences."

The Sanford Police Department works closely with the District Attorney's Office, but state laws need to be addressed to include mandatory sentencing for crimes involving a firearm, he said.

If a person is convicted of a crime with a gun, an automatic sentencing — set by the legislature — should be added, which would take away plea deals and input from attorneys, Yarborough said.

"Something has got to occur that is mandatory," he said, "something that would be a strong deterrent and get people behind bars and off the streets."

Williams said he's heard reports of women scared to leave their homes and altering their routes to avoid certain areas.

"She hears shooting and is afraid to see where it is coming from," he said. "Basically, innocent people are changing their living habits."

Councilman Charles Taylor said he had recently spoken with several North Carolina legislators and is working on a potential bill concerning gun violence, but he would not elaborate. Taylor said he'd be happy to work with Sanford City Attorney Susan Patterson on drafting a bill and gathering support.

Williams encouraged a swift response.

"I don't know what is all involved in drafting a bill, but I do know neighborhood violence is at the forefront," he said.

Sanford resident Ricky Tysor spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting and encouraged the council to take some action to curb the violence.

There are senior citizens that have to drop to the floor in their neighborhood because they are scared of a bullet hitting their home, he said.

"I just wish something could be done to get these kids of the streets with their guns," Tysor said. "... Think if it was in your neighborhood. Wouldn't you want justice and want to lock them up? Please come and help us with that."  

In other matters, council:

* Voted to hold a work session in the beginning of the year to discuss the Lee County Board of Commissioners' decision to end several interlocal agreements with the city unless a compromise could be reached. After the work session, the council will announce its intentions, said Councilman Poly Cohen, who requested the work session.

* Watched a video from this year's National Night Out and honored the site coordinators. Sanford placed sixth in its size category nationwide.

* Denied a taxpayer's request for abatement.

* Held a public hearing to rezone two tracts of land from residential-mixed to woodland storage conditional zoning district for a mini-storage company. Two people, including a neighbor and business owner, spoke in favor of the project.