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Recently, at my request, a senior Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office sergeant escorted me on a late night visit to seven residential areas the department identifies as priority drug enforcement targets.
They are listed in the article I wrote about the “ride along” experience.
A trusted friend of mine approached me in church wearing a grin that reminded me of a possum eating peanut butter through a screen door.
“I read a letter to the editor in The Brunswick Beacon that beat you up over your article about the drug hot spots,” he said as he gripped my hand.
Sure, I received a couple of angry inquiries about it. As a result, I am delighted to make some observations and list crime prevention tips of interest for the people concerned about their safety their neighborhoods.
Both of my honorable brothers own termite inspection businesses, one in California and the other in Oregon. Many of their customers are buyers or sellers of commercial and residential property.
Buyers want the truth. Sellers do not always welcome the truth.
This creates a tense atmosphere for favorable inspections and reporting. My brothers are full of entertaining stories. While on vacation, I often went to work with my brother Jim and “crawled” a few houses with him.
On one “buyer-ordered” job, he arrived at the site and met the owner of the house accompanied by his Realtor. During the brief initial conversation, the owner made a thinly disguised offer of a bribe if there was going to be a favorable inspection in the forthcoming report.
As they stood under the freshly painted eve of the house, my brother shoved his 18-inch screwdriver through the overhang and gave the board a sharp prying motion. The rotten wood shattered into dozens of powdery fragments, exposing extensive damage.
The owner let out a little squeak and shuttered in dismay. During the next 10 minutes, things went from bad to worse. The need for costly repairs and treatment became apparent.
The inspection clouded the anticipated profit on the sale. They were not happy campers.
Brunswick County residents pay good tax money for our sheriff’s office to make expert candid assessments of our exposure to crime.
When the department reports and takes effective action against a dangerous situation, citizens are getting what they pay for. Apparently, like my brother’s inspection, it is not always welcome.
I do not expect our sheriff’s office to be deterred from its sworn duty to identify crime problems in our community and inform us while taking stiff enforcement action to abate it.
Sheriff John Ingram is going after it full bore with aggressive proactive teams. Plenty of arrests are being made.
The Brunswick Beacon has outstanding public safety/community sections reporting the substantial progress being made by the sheriff’s new ACE enforcement team and K-9 enforcement team. Long-standing criminal activity is feeling the pinch.
Thugs rule in darkness
It is not unusual for a citizen to be aware of a crime problem, have solid information about it and not dial 911.
The police are not mind readers. They rely on being informed by reliable witnesses. Police patrol night and day and welcome contact. They are willing to listen under confidential circumstances to ensure the safety of witnesses.
Witnesses are timid folk for good reasons. They live in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. The thugs they inform against are known to make reprisals against their property and the witnesses themselves. This fact of life is well known.
It is one of the major barriers for significant progress in criminal and civil cases. Citizens serving on grand juries face thugs tampering with the proceedings and are warned about it.
The recent conviction of one of our leading public officials is a good case in point. Even brave law enforcement officials feel the bite of “fear and intimidation.”
It is no wonder in a recent letter to the editor the writer reports she is aware of a crime problem but has not been interviewed. Witnesses begin by dialing 911.
While on the late-night ride with the Brunswick County sergeant, I noted decent people were safely in their houses, either in bed or watching TV but drug suspects were in their cars and on their feet conducting business as usual.
I guarantee perceptions change when citizens leave the late-night comfort and convenience of their homes and find out what is happening under cover of darkness on the streets they travel during daylight hours. It is an education.
Neighborhood watch is essential
I live in a neighborhood some people would consider sweet but rough, on the Little Shallotte River just off Shell Point Road. My wife’s father built it in 1983 with his own hands.
In 1999, he asked if we would settle down in it. Grateful, we cheerfully accepted his wonderful gift. While I was overseas with United Nations Missions, my wife enhanced it considerably at substantial expense. We are content.
We noticed the crime problems in the neighborhood. The sheriff’s office acknowledged it. We did not argue. We listened and acted. I discussed it with Sgt. Joe Scoggins at the sheriff’s office.
He advised us on buying a Neighborhood Watch sign and we posted it at the entrance in a little flower garden we plant and maintain.
It was dark in critical areas of our neighborhood. I took the identification numbers off two utility poles to Brunswick Electric Membership Corp. on U.S. 17 and ordered two security lights.
The speedy installation was $35 dollars each and $10 a month each to operate them. The expense is part of our monthly bill. We consider it money wisely spent.
Every day I pick up any paper trash and beverage containers that may be littering the entrance. Residents stop to talk or just wave as they pass.
When I see a deputy driving through on routine patrol, I signal for him or her to stop and talk. They always do. I cannot stress enough this is an important activity. Information is power.
Thugs will always be with us. We cannot allow them to rule our neighborhoods. With our law enforcement friends, we will prevail.
The good things in life don’t just run up and kiss us on our lips. We have to reach out and make them happen.
John Heidtke has been employed with municipal, county, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies since 1963.