Monday, Sept. 10, 2012
BLACKVILLE, S.C. -- An increase in deadly violence has people in the small town of Blackville searching for a solution.
City leaders hosted a community forum Monday night to discuss the recent violence. Nearly 200 people showed up, including members of city council, the mayor, police chief, sheriff and members of SLED.
Dennis Purnell has lived in Blackville his whole life.
"I'm very surprised at the turnout," he said.
For the small town, a turnout like this is shocking, but the reason they all gathered is even more shocking.
"There's been a lot of violence in the area. People are concerned. A lot of kids are out of control trying to terrorize the community," Purnell said.
Blackville Mayor Michael Beasley says, "A lot of people are concerned. And as a resident and a citizen of this town, I'm concerned."
In about a month's time, three people have been murdered in the once-quiet community, and people are saying that enough is enough.
"This isn't the norm. When we're talking three lives taken, that isn't a norm," Beasley said.
Officials say there's been a huge upswing in violence and gang activity in what was once a safe community.
Ian Kaiser, Blackville city administrator, spoke at the forum, saying part of the problem is gang violence.
"Gangs are growing everywhere, and I think the main thing, kids don't feel a sense of belonging," he said.
"I for one, I'm not going to let anyone run me out of my community. I've lived here all my life and I love Blackville," Purnell said.
Leaders say it's time to take back the town, and it starts with bringing people together to come up with a plan.
"When you have a crisis like this when resources are less, you have to muster up and empower people to do their part," Kaiser said.
Some of the goals they hope to implement include community watch programs, after-school and mentoring programs and getting the community more involved.
They say the city's budget is only getting smaller, and the police force just can't do it alone.