By Stan Welch
Concerns over the local crime rate drew a crowd of more than seventy five residents and neighbors to Steve Cone’s home, where Sheriff John Skipper and some of his staff explained the importance and value of a neighborhood watch group.
The meeting had the air of a social gathering, with the kitchen table laden with food and cups of sweet tea everywhere. But the mood was serious, as the community, which centers around Cannon Bottom and Rector Roads, has been experiencing an outbreak of burglaries and thefts.
One family, which had lived in the area for seven years, suffered the loss of their home to fire earlier this year. Barbara Wagher said that she and her family were in Charleston for a family gathering when Cone, who lived just down the road, called with the news that their home was totally destroyed.
“ He told us that we should just come straight to their house, because they had cleared the second floor for our family to live in. That’s the kind of friends he and his wife are. We thought we had lost everything, but we’ve been robbed twice in the last few weeks at the burned house. “
Sheriff Skipper explained to the crowd that the people robbing them don’t necessarily live in the area. “When you folks get your group organized, things will get better, because these folks will move on to another area that isn’t so well organized. We at the sheriff’s department know that we are basically chasing the same ten per cent of the population all the time. They just move their operations from one part of the county to the other.”
Skipper pointed out that with an area of almost seven hundred fifty square miles to patrol with just sixteen deputies per shift, the assistance of the community is vital. “There isn’t a police force in the country that has enough officers to watch everything, or see everything. So having those extra eyes can make a great difference.”
Capt. Scott White and Lt. Mills also spoke to the crowd, explaining the need for a structure that allows the smooth sharing of information, both within the group and with the sheriff’s department. “It’s also important that the group keeps active and involved, especially when the break-ins drop off. It’s easy to get complacent, but that usually leads to the group breaking up. “
Most of the crowd left with a yard sign, declaring that the Cannon Bottom Watchdogs are on the job, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week.