Harnett County, NC Sheriff Larry Rollins
Harnett County, NC Sheriff Larry Rollins

As a resident of southern Wake County, North Carolina, I’m aware of the recent spate of violence in Harnett County, just to our south.

What I wasn’t quite prepared for was how the local sheriff decided to respond to the recent threat rash of violent crime:

More than 100 people packed the sanctuary of the Spring Hill United Methodist Church Monday night for a community meeting on crime. There has been an explosion of violence and crime in the area, especially in the last few weeks.

Sheriff Larry Rollins told the crowd that the violence is fueled by gangs and drugs. He urged everyone to protect themselves, saying he doesn’t go anywhere without a gun.

“When I am out with my family, even though I am a cop, I don’t go anywhere without a gun,” Rollins told the crowd. “I mean it’s sad we have to have that attitude, but I am going to protect myself and my family. I want my deputies at your house just as fast as they can when you got a problem, but you better be able to take care of business until we get there if you have to protect your family.”

This part of the county’s landscape of rural life is quickly giving way to a population boom, and residents are worried. Several residents said they are afraid to leave their homes — afraid of the growing violence.

It’s good to hear a local (to me) Sheriff who understands that an armed citizenry is a key component of crime deterrence. Rollins understands that his deputies are stretched wide across a sizable area, and that if someone places a call when the closest deputies are on the other end of their patrol areas or are dealing with multiple calls, deputies will not arrive for ten or more minutes… a lifetime, if it is your life is on the line against a violent criminal.

There is speculation that urban sprawl from Raleigh/Wake County (in the north) and Fayetteville/Cumberland County (in the south) are pinching in on this rural area and bringing in gang and drug-related crime. ¬†This may or may not be true. Others are claiming the problem on the influx of low-education Hispanics of dubious citizenship who seem to be bringing in the drug and gang related activity of their native lands.¬†While I’m sure some will criticize these observations (it’s worth noting many of those placing blame at certain groups are pointing at ethnic groups other than their own), it does seem apparent that the crime is being imported, regardless of the origin of the criminals.

Locals are hoping that the recent rash of violent crime is an anomaly and not the start of a trend. Speakers at the event emphasized that crime control is a community effort, and that citizens need to not only look out for themselves, but for their neighbors and their communities.

Hopefully residents of Harnett County won’t have to “take care of business” very often. If the need arise, it helps to know that their Sheriff is a strong supporter of “good guys with guns.”