Forming neighborhood watch groups
By Stan Welch
Williamston and the surrounding area have been plagued by a rash of burglaries and home invasions in recent weeks, and the residents of the affected areas are fed up. Thursday (Oct. 24) residents of the Big Creek area will be meeting with law enforcement officials to organize the Cannon Bottom Watchdogs.
Robert Cone, resident and organizer of the effort, said that there have been at least fifteen incidents in the last six weeks, involving forced entry into and burglary of homes. In addition, there have been countless incidents of smaller thefts of household or yard items that were stolen from the outside of homes.
“I say countless because a lot of them weren’t even reported,” said Cone, in a telephone interview with The Journal. Cone went on to explain that he and a few others had met earlier this week with Sheriff John Skipper.
“He explained to us that the county is divided into three coverage areas, and that there are only sixteen deputies per shift. So they have to prioritize the calls, meaning if the burglar is actually in your home, they respond immediately. But if the burglary is over, they may just take a report over the phone. We understand that to a point.”
Cone pointed out that in at least one case, the resident was home when the perpetrators kicked in the door and entered. Luckily, she was not harmed, but the thieves robbed her house anyway. “Naturally, this lady and many others in the area are very frightened by all this. It has to stop, and we expect the Sheriff to help us.”
Cone said he and his neighbors do not expect the Sheriff to do everything. “We want to partner with the Sheriff and his department. We know there are things we can do to protect ourselves and our property. We just need to get organized.”
In order to do so, Cone is hosting a meeting at his home at 620 Cannon Bottom Road between Williamston and Belton at 5 p.m. Thursday. He anticipates perhaps as many as forty or fifty in attendance. Organizing such crime watch groups is an integral part of Skipper’s crime prevention strategy.
Cone said he and his neighbors have handed out a hundred flyers on just three streets. “We put up two signs and went on facebook. The response is really growing. We have also ordered 100 signs for people to put in their yards. The message they contain is pretty pointed, we think. You don’t want to be stealing around here, and this is your fair warning.”
Cone said he doesn’t want to see any citizen get into a situation protecting their home that could land them in trouble. “It’s one thing to defend yourself in your own home. It’s quite another to shoot someone running away with a TV set. We want all that explained to us.”
Residents of Pelzer recently formed a Crime Watch Group and White Plains residents have been organized for more than five years.
The White Plains group was one of the first formed in the county and remains a model for others to follow.