Sanford Police chief, pastors go door-to-door to meet community - FOX 35 News Orlando

Sanford Police chief, pastors go door-to-door to meet community

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SANFORD, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) -

The Sanford Police chief joined officers and pastors in going door-to-door Thursday, hoping each step leads them closer to solving a recent rash of shootings.

"This is a milestone for the City of Sanford in getting out into the community and talking to the community. We have to come together if we want to stop the shootings," Chief Cecil Smith said.

Last month, an Army veteran with a Purple Heart was slain. Just a week later, another man was paralyzed during a drive-by shooting.

Smith hopes to not only solve the shootings but help mend race relations and develop trust.

"Our goal right now is to listen and say, 'We understand what happened.' I can't change 60 years of deep-seated hatred towards the police department," he said.

"It's a day of victory; it's a day of celebration."

Pastor Valarie Houston says it's important to work together to heal relations, especially as the trial of George Zimmerman takes place next month.

It was during that case when race relations between Sanford Police and residents came to a boiling point.

"We want to unify, that's what we want to do and that's why we're here."

Even a Sanford city commissioner joined the team, handing out information about city resources.

"This day is a very great day, because what the chief has done is embraced one of the most important prerequisites, and that is reaching out to the community," Commissioner Velma Williams said.

As Chief Smith and others get soaked from the wet weather, Sanford residents such as Miss Payne say it gives them hope knowing authorities are working with the community.

"I'm glad to see they're out, because they need that people do really need that," she said.

A representative from the U.S. Department of Justice also participated. He wasn't allowed to talk to media but has made several trips since Trayvon Martin was shot and killed last year.

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