The Henderson-Vance Community Watch Association held its first-ever quarterly meeting at the Maria Parham Medical Center yesterday evening.
The association is an attempt to support Henderson and Vance County Community Watch groups by providing training, motivation, and mutual support to officers of the individual Community Watch groups.
The forming of the Community Watch Association may very well be unprecedented. Lt. Irvin Robinson of the Henderson Police Department indicated that he knows of no other Community Watch organizations like the newly formed association in North Carolina.
The Rev. Frank Sossamon of the South Henderson Pentecostal Holiness Church, who currently serves as the chairman of Henderson-Vance Crime Stoppers has spearheaded the effort to form an umbrella organization for Community Watches in Vance County.
Sossamon and the local Crime Stoppers won three out of five state awards in 2009 for promotion through a series of fire department forums, fund raising, and a Citizen’s Award for Sossamon himself in recognition of his leadership.
Sossamon formed the Church Watch group recently to combat crimes that occur in houses of worship as well.
The Reverend told the 75 to 85 residents assembled that the meeting marked the beginning of a partnership that has the potential to change the face of the community. He credited Community Watch organizations for being proactive, for raising the level of pride, and for helping to educate people about resources in their communities.
Henderson Police Chief Keith Sidwell was the next to address the crowd. He said that everyone in the room was present because they had made a decision “that enough is enough”.
“Everyone here sees the potential of what Henderson and Vance County should be,” he said.
Sidwell called attention to the fact that he has said “should be” rather than “could be”.
He emphasized that courts, businesses, homeowners, and police departments need to work together.
Noting a 3% drop in crime in Henderson last year, he said, “That’s not enough”.
Henderson Fire Chief Danny Wilkerson began his remarks by answering the question of why the fire chief is involved in Crime Stoppers by remarking: “I’m tired of crime”.
Wilkerson described how the Henderson Fire Department, the Henderson Police Department, and the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation had partnered to to investigate a string of arsons that occurred last year and the year before.
Vance County Sheriff Peter White stated that “Community Watch is one of the best things I’ve seen happen.”
“If we can work together, the community will be much safer,” White said.
Officers of the Henderson Police Department and the Vance County Sheriff’s office were then introduced. Afterwards, members of Vance County and Henderson Community Watches were recognized.
Outside of Henderson, there are watch organizations in Kittrell, Huntstone, Cobblestone, Ruin Creek Road, West Hills, Watkins, Spring Valley Road, and Carey Chapel Road. In the city, there are watches in Pinkston Street, Flint Hill, Old West End, Springwood Apartments, Courtyard Woods, Pine Ranes, Sterling Park Apartments, West Henderson, Highland Green Apartments, North Henderson Heights, Oak Hill, the Links, Lula’s Landing Apartments, and Lincoln Heights.
Citizens from Dabney, Sandy Creek, and Middleburg were present to express interest in starting a watch in their communities.
After appointing officers and soliciting board members, the group agreed to set its regular meeting time as the fourth Thursday of each month at 7:00 p.m. at the Maria Parham Medical Center.