Candidates to discuss crime, landlord problems

Crime problems, the rise of gangs and complaints about unresponsive landlords are among the topics up for discussion at a Weed & Seed candidates forum on Monday in Rock Hill.

City Council incumbent Kevin Sutton, challenger Vince Blackwell and community activist Susie Hinton, who will succeed the late Winston Searles on the council, will be the three panelists at the 7 p.m. event sponsored by churches in the Weed & Seed area.

All are candidates in the Oct. 16 city election, though Hinton's candidacy is uncontested. The forum will be held at the Emmett Scott Center on Crawford Road.

The goal is to encourage neighbors to speak out about their concerns -- and push them to call their council members to ask for help, said Lonnie Harvey, a member of the Weed & Seed steering committee.

"The city's not driving around at night," he said. "It's up to residents to call and say there's a street light out. It's feeling comfortable in doing that. It's not the case right now."

The forum represents one of the first opportunities for people to ask questions publicly of Hinton, who will assume the Ward 1 seat formerly held by Searles, who died in August at age 85.

Sutton faces no officially declared opponent in Ward 2, though Blackwell has registered as a write-in candidate.

The Weed & Seed program encompasses five center-city neighborhoods where crime rates are among the highest in the city. Since the program began last April, criminal charges have gone up 50 percent.

Those charges range from one murder arrest to 132 drug-related arrests to 68 simple assaults. Weed & Seed calls for stepped-up policing, after-school programs and expanded treatment for alcohol and drug abuse.