WAGRAM — Nearly a dozen Wagram residents agreed to rise above their fears of retaliation from criminals and be the eyes and ears of the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office at a Neighborhood Watch meeting Tuesday, the first of its kind.
“There’s so much stuff going on in the community,” said local resident Evelyn Thomas. “I want to know if there’s a part I can play. I’ve got grandkids and I want our community to be safe.”
Sheriff’s capt. Scott Jacobs said that it’s important to the department to build “a partnership with the community” at the meeting, held at the Wagram Recreation Center. He stressed that the department and the public should not only work together to stop criminals from getting away with break-ins and thefts, but to also hold accountable the people responsible for conducting illegal activity in their neighborhoods.
“There are a lot more citizens than there are law enforcement,” said Sheriff Shep Jones.
“Our first concern is your safety,” said Wagram police chief Kenneth Locklear. “A lot of times people have the assumption of ‘I don’t want to talk to the sheriff’s department or the police department because I don’t want my name put in anything.’ You know, our number one concern is your safety. We’re not out there trying to put your name in anything, we just want you to call and help make our jobs easier.”
Chief deputy Mitch Johnson agreed.
“We come to support you in the community watch in every effort that we can,” Johnson said, “but you have to make the decision that you can’t be afraid anymore. When we begin to come together in a unified front, this takes away the scare tactics.”
He said the department has attempted to initiate Neighborhood Watch programs in the past, but has received little support.
“It’s about time for you to be fed up,” Johnson said. “It’s about time for you to say enough is enough … and when that happens, then you begin to see things differently. We begin to give you the tools you need so that if things happen that you’re not aware of it can come back to us and we can help build what we need in reference to the neighborhood watch.”
Johnson continued, saying, “I don’t know about you, but I like having a nosy neighbor.”
Near the end of the meeting, a new Wagram resident, Joseph Gibson, volunteered to be the coordinator of the Neighborhood Watch.
A resident voiced concern over what he felt was a lack of response by the department to a recent domestic dispute, and other residents asked questions about the schedule of school resource officers. Since January, deputies have been rotating through the elementary schools, while the county’s middle schools and Scotland High have at least one full-time officer.
The next Neighborhood Watch meeting will be held at Unionville Baptist Church in Laurinburg on July 8 at 6 p.m.
Rachel McAuley can be reached at 910-276-2311, ext. 15. Follow her on Twitter @rachelmcauley1.