Police chief meets with concerned citizens

Henderson Police Chief Glen Allen met with approximately 70 concerned citizens yesterday evening to discuss crime. The meeting was spurred by a recent home invasion on January 1. An elderly woman was severely beaten in that invasion.

Also present at the meeting were Henderson City Council members Lynn Harper, Bobby Gupton, Lonnie Davis, Elissa Yount, and Mary Emma Evans. Captains Mike Davis and Charles Crumpler were present on behalf of the Henderson Police Department, as well as Lt. Irvin Robinson and Officer A.M. Feingold. Recently installed Interim City Manager Jerry Moss was in attendance as well as Margaret Ellis and Tommy Riddle of the Vance County Board of Education.

Allen began the meeting by stating, “There is a definite problem with the safety and security needs of many in our senior community.” He warned the crowd of assembled citizens that he could not discuss specifics regarding the criminal investigation, but did mention that he believed that the invasion was related to another incident that had happened.

The chief also released a preliminary figure compiled by his department that indicated that violent crime in Henderson had decreased by 15% in the last year. According to Allen, this figure represents the lowest crime rate in ten years.

“We’ve put a lot of people in prison,” Allen stated. In a rare moment of levity during the meeting, he added, “We believe that when they’re in prison, they’re not committing crimes.”

Allen asked the crowd to raise their hands if they were members of a Community Watch group to which only a handful responded affirmatively. He told citizens that there is already a vehicle in place to help residents begin a Community Watch group and that the police would help interested parties start a group in their neighborhoods.

The chief then opened the floor to questions. One resident asked why she had observed a car being stopped on Interstate 85 in the southbound lane by a Henderson Police Officer two miles north of the city limits. The resident stated that the driver of the stopped vehicle was an elderly woman who did not appear to represent a threat. Allen responded to the question by stating that there is a city Highway Traffic Safety Unit that enforces state and federal law on the interstate. He reported that there have been more deaths on Henderson’s stretch of the highway than all of the homicides in the city combined. He also stated that Interstate 85 is a corridor for the smuggling of illegal drugs and cash and that money seized in traffic stops is used to pay overtime to police officers.

Allen went on to say that more overtime has been paid this fiscal year than in the past four years. According to the chief, this means that shifts and staffs are full and more officers are on patrol.

“There is a benefit in crime prevention,” Allen stated in reference to the Highway Traffic Safety Unit.

Another question was asked regarding whether or not detective work was being done to find those responsible for break-ins. The chief answered that it depends on the case. Some cases, according to Allen, do not have what he termed “viable solvability factors”.

Other questions posed included problems with juveniles, individual problems with police service, and how neighborhoods are assigned patrol officers.

Team Vance leader Marolyn Rasheed commented that she was saddened by the meeting. She admonished the assembled residents that she had seen “less than half” at a Vance County Coalition Against Violence meeting.

“It’s not just the police and sheriff’s responsibility,” she said. “We have to come together to work on the problem together.”

School board member Margaret Ellis spoke in support of Rasheed’s comments. “When something happens on that side of Dabney Drive, then people pour out,” she said, referring to the home invasion that spurred the meeting. “Folk know that we are divided,” she further stated.

Near the end of the meeting, Interim City Manager Jerry Moss reminded the assembled residents that Henderson has lost 3,000 jobs in the last five years. According to Moss, revenues are not what they were and expenses still go on.

“We’ve got a tiger by the tail,” Moss stated.

The meeting was ended at 6:25 p.m. after crime prevention materials were distributed. Allen and the representative members of the police department remained to answer individual citizen questions until 7:00 p.m.