GIBSON — As the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office looks for ways to step up protection for the town of Gibson, authorities don’t want residents here trying to act as police themselves.
At this month’s Gibson commissioners meeting, several residents expressed concerns about the lack of a law enforcement presence in town. Gibson does not have its own police department and is served by the sheriff’s office.
But Lloyd Goins, chief deputy with the sheriff’s office, who spoke at the Aug. 11 meeting, suggested that it was legal to detain an individual for trespassing. Several residents had asked if they could hold suspected crooks until law enforcement arrived.
This week, Goins said that while legal, such an action could endanger residents and suspected criminals. Goins said he wants residents to be vigilant about illegal activity in Gibson, but apprehending or detaining criminals is the job of the sheriff’s office.
“I do not recommend residents of Gibson take matters into their own hands,” he said.
Gibson residents had been complaining about riders of ATVs and dirt bike trespassing on private property; drugs; break-ins; and slow response times.
Sarah Wright, who said at a town meeting in July that because of crime she may have to “walk across my yard with a gun on my hip.”
She said this week that she has seen few improvements in addressing crime.
“I am still looking for gun … a smaller one so it is more accessible,” Wright said. “I just don’t feel safe.”
Gibson Commissioner Lula Cottingham said Sheriff Ralph Kersey had promised to have a substation manned by a deputy during his campaign for office, but the office never materialized.
Still Goins said the deputies ride through town on a daily basis.
“We do have unmarked and marked cars patrolling Gibson,” said Goins, one of the officers who is in Gibson each day.
Deputies have also been promoting their presence through “Operation Safe Streets” an effort that includes going door-to-door to talk with residents and explain the services offered by the department.
Mayor Ronnie Gibson said the sheriff’s office is doing the best it can.
“I have seen sheriff’s vehicles driving around town more often,” Hudson said. “The sheriff’s office is doing exactly what they said they were going to do.”
Reach Nolan Gilmour at 910-506-3171