One year after creation, Cops & Barbers initiative making a difference

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – A strong relationship between police and the community they serve can make all the difference when fighting crime.

On Tuesday the Greenville Police Department continued a program created to do just that.

The Cops & Barbers initiative puts Greenville Police and local barbers face-to-face to have honest conversations about the realities of policing.

Eric Barnes is the owner of Young Vision Barbershop.

Young said, “As the program actually went on I started to see the benefits of the program.”

Barnes said it’s simple. This program is working.

“Before there couldn’t have been a time where officers actually walked into a barber shop,” said Barnes. “Now officers can actually walk into a barber shop and get a positive response versus getting a negative response like, ‘What is the officer doing here?”

Barnes said it took his customers a minute to jump on board.

He said, “In the beginning they were just like they would pull in and see cops cars and thing ‘What’s wrong?”

Now he thinks the risk was worth it.

“As you can see the outcome is amazing,” said Barnes. “I’m in here now with cops and barbers of all races. Like I said I’ve actually personally seen results from it.”

Officer Richie Williams is over the unit.

Williams said, “Having those dialogs and letting them see ‘Hey we do make mistakes,’ it builds that trust in the community so for the most part the dialog has been great.”

Barnes said there’s other perks.

“Now they come in and they understand I can talk to my barber and maybe my barber can relate something to the officer to get a direct contact for something happening inside the community,” said Barnes.

He said providing points of contact for the community has made the difference.

“Sometimes people just don’t know who to go to for a problem when then they don’t necessarily want to deal directly with the officers,” said Barnes.

11 Greenville barbershops are on board with the hope more will join them.

Barnes said, “Right now they’ve actually come up with a solution to a problem that we have. So now because we’ve put a solution in place and like you said coming into year two. I mean, I’m only looking forward to more great things.”

Williams said the first year of the program went better than he could have imagine.

He hopes the positive response from the community is momentum to keep moving forward.

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