Last night there was an unfortunate and possibly gang-related incident at Rosemary Street’s Visions nightclub.

At approximately 1:00 a.m. this morning officers responded to a report of gun shots at Visions Night Club located at 136 E. Rosemary Street. Multiple shots were reportedly fired from a handgun by an unidentified black male suspect after a fight occurred inside. Six victims were treated for non-life threatening gunshot wounds at area hospitals. Some of the victims identified have known gang affiliations. Due to the low lighting and the confusion associated with the large crowd, the suspect exited the night club shortly after firing the shots.

Lt. Kevin Gunter, CHPD

I was relieved to hear no one suffered grave injury.

I was also struck by the timing – it was just one year ago that then Police Chief Jarvies issued this memo [PDF] enumerating the reasons for closing Avalon, a similar venue on Rosemary St. I work close to Avalon and saw the escalation of minor problems into what became the culminating event leading to its closure – the July 30th, 2006 fatal shooting of Kevdrian Swan.

This was not the first incident at Avalon or, as Chief Jarvies noted, 136 East Rosemary St., the then location of Player’s, the current location of Visions.

My first thought was: “What should we have learned from the Avalon mess? Why didn’t our Town do more to prevent another outbreak of violence?”

Chief Jarvies pointed out the Players had the second highest incidence of serious offenses. The plan was to meet with the owners of that club and try to prevent another Avalon type outcome.

Why, a year later, are we dealing at the same location with what could have been a worse tragedy? Couldn’t the Town intervene earlier? Why didn’t it?

Both citizens and the media report that problems – including violent behavior – had been escalating at Visions (and spilling over into the nearby neighborhoods). The pattern was established but the Town failed to act.

As a University town, night clubs are a act of life. The Town should be able to foresee, especially with the growing influence of gangs in the Triangle, that venues like Visions can attract a dangerous crowd. Why don’t we have a standard mechanism for working with club owners to forestall these issues? Why aren’t we monitoring these flash points?

As far as Visions, I’d like to hear more about the incident. The knee-jerk response is to call for its closure – to go into reactive mode – something our Council is quite adept at.

Since we apparently missed an opportunity to learn some lessons from Avalon, I’m asking Council to make an effort to learn from Visions. If these venues are going to be allowed to operate, we should damn well be proactive and be ready to clamp down when we see a pattern of problems developing.

I’ve supported the CHPD’s efforts to become more “gang savvy” (here’s what I said about funding on WCHL).
I called on Council to provide a little “helper” funding to help make the recent Governor’s Crime Commission grant a bit more effective (didn’t happen).

Whether I’m elected or not, I will be asking Council again to support adequate gang education for both our police force and our community. And, as I said one year ago, we need to do more than deploy officers Downtown. We need to re-balance our force to nip issues before they escalate.

That is why I’m encouraged by an objective our Town Manager set our new new police chief, Chief Curran, to “expand the community policing efforts of the department so that community policing becomes a belief system within our department”.

Finally, Office Gunter asks:

Anyone with information about the shooting, please call either the Chapel Hill Police Department at 968-2760 or Crime Stoppers at 942-7515. Calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential and anonymous, and the caller may be eligible for a cash reward up to $1,200 for information that leads to arrest.

Forewarned, supposedly, is forearmed. We obviously missed a few lessons from the Avalon mess, hopefully we won’t miss the lessons of Visions.

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