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Benson Community Concerned About Barbed-Wire Surroundings

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BENSON, N.C. — A barbed-wire fence debate in Johnston County has some people feeling like prisoners.

According to the local housing authority, the fence is there to keep residents safe. But although crime is down, residents believe the fence is sending a bad message.

Neighbors in the Raymond Sanders housing community are upset with their surroundings. -- an 8-foot chain-link fence topped with barbed wire.

"I feel that it is locking us in there," resident Darla Judkins said.

Judkins has lived in the community for more than a year. She said the barbed wire sends the wrong message to her four children.

"To me, that tells them that: 'OK, your future is being in jail,'" Judkins said.

Benson's Housing Authority put the fence up two years ago.

"It was mainly to protect the residents, to make them feel secure at night and during the day," said Housing Authority Director Debbie Wheeler-Edge.

Numbers show the fence is working. Benson police said they have seen a drop in calls to the neighborhood.

"I've not had one resident come to me and complain they didn't like the fence," Wheeler-Edge said.

But town leaders are hearing from people.

Town Commissioner Casandra Stack said a nicer-looking fence would have the same crime-fighting results, without upsetting people who look at it from the inside.

"There are other parts of town that have some similar crime, but this is the only section of town that has this barbed-wire fence," Stack said.

When asked what she would do if a large group of residents asked her to take down the fence, Wheeler-Edge said: "I'd take the barbed-wire down, but the fence would stay.

"That's for their children's safety," she said.

Judkins said she hopes more of her neighbors will speak up to take the fence down.

Wheeler-Edge said the Housing Authority will hold an open forum so that any residents who have concerns can voice them.

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