PIEDMONT -- Residents packed Piedmont Veterans Hall Tuesday night to hear crime prevention information and ask questions of new Police Chief Rikki Goede.
They booed and interrupted a speaker who was advocating getting a gun for self-protection, saying statistics showed residents packing heat were safer.
"You've made your point, sir," Goede said pointedly. "Please step down from the podium.
"It's a personal choice to purchase a gun," Goede continued. "You better know how to use it. You shoot someone in the back climbing out the window, you could go to prison. It's a roll of the dice with your life confronting someone who also has a gun.
"It's better to be a good witness," the police chief said.
Goede was firm and informative with her presentation to begin the town hall meeting, which was organized in the wake of four home invasion robberies since December that are giving Piedmonters the jitters.
She outlined steps the department is taking to combat crime and solve cases -- utilizing overtime, hiring more officers, pushing for more Neighborhood Watch groups, getting help from outside agencies.
"Combating crime is a three-legged stool -- police, technology and community participation. Know your neighbors. Report suspicious activity, someone ducking behind a bush, walking a neighborhood looking into cars," Goede said.
"Don't stop newspapers and mail. That's a tipoff to criminals someone is away. Have a neighbor collect for you. Don't hide a key outside. I bet I could find it in just a few minutes," she kidded.
Mark Herrick, a lower Piedmont resident, asked if there could be more patrols in their area which is subject to more crime than other areas of town. Goede explained officers respond to calls wherever and whenever needed, but can't neglect one part of town for another.
One speaker asked that names be redacted from meeting minutes available on the city's website concerning home construction permits, which she felt tipped off burglars. City Administrator Geoff Grote and Goede stated public records and videos of meetings are public, but he would be glad to discuss further with the speaker.
Other speakers questioned police response times to burglar alarms or how long a suspect is pursued. Some suggested posting signs about Neighborhood Watch groups and asked how license plate readers work. Piedmont is evaluating the cost of the readers and where they would be located.
Superior Court Judge Jeff Horner said he commended the Police Department for all the steps taken.
"When you call 911, someone answers the phone and officers are there in two minutes. We are all in this together," he said.