By Morgan Murphy
Opelika Police Department Chief John McEachern addressed Ward 2 residents about the recent uptick of violence within their district last Monday at Lewis Cooper Jr. Memorial Library.
Organized by Ward 2 Councilwoman Tiffany Gibson-Pitts, the meeting served as a platform for McEachern to field questions from concerned citizens and assure them that the necessary steps are being taken by OPD to alleviate this problem.
“Trust me when I say we are doing everything we possibly can with respect to the murders in the Opelika area. Ever since I became police chief five years ago, my sole intention is to have the officers stop, get out of these cars, go in churches, go in schools, go into businesses, go in all these different areas throughout Opelika and introduce themselves again,” McEachern said. “The officers we are hiring today are not just homegrown Opelika people, these guys are coming out of the military and all over the country.”
Since 2012, McEachern stated that there have been 26 murders in Ward 2, an average of nearly four per year.
“I will tell you that 99 percent of these murders have been committed by individuals where the guns were stolen. These gun laws being put out there are making it harder for a law-abiding citizen to go out and purchase a weapon,” McEachern said. “These weapons are being stolen out of people’s cars and homes.”
Following meetings with his staff and Mayor Gary Fuller in 2017, McEachern said OPD has launched a Proactive Patrol Plan, which allows the department to pay overtime to their off-duty officers to increase police presence within Wards 1 and 2.
“During the last 8-9 months this program has been running, we have spread it out and (have been) hitting all of the different wards. It is paying dividends (for) us,” McEachern said. “This is an extra four officers on the street. They come from diverse backgrounds, and I think that gives us an advantage when they are out here meeting and talking with people.”
McEachern added that the program has led to the recovery of six stolen guns, responded to six shootings and made arrests in 29 drug cases.
Ultimately, McEachern reminded residents that they are the first line of defense against crime in their communities.
“If you see something suspicious, say something,” McEachern said.