Local News

Citizens Take Law Enforcement Into Their Own Hands

Posted December 13, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— Some people in Cumberland County are taking an aggressive approach to fighting crime. Four times last week, citizens chased after criminals.

The chases ended in different ways, showing the pros and cons of making citizen arrests. Twice, the suspects were caught. But in one case, the victim giving chase was shot. The police will take all the help they can get, but not if it means people putting their lives on the line.

Christine Lucus, John Johnson and Brad Sims allegedly attacked and robbed a Fayetteville man. He later spotted and held them for police, using an unloaded shotgun. In another case, a robber armed with a knife held up a woman at this pay phone in the Eutaw Village Shopping Center. Two green berets chased the suspect across Bragg Boulevard and caught him.

Police charged George Wilcher with robbery and with forcing sex on a woman in a restroom at the same shopping center a week earlier.

"I don't feel like we did anything special other than what I would have expected of any other guy on the scene to have done for my wife or my daughter," says Fort Bragg soldier Charles Spence.

Another Fort Bragg soldier ran after two robbers at the Express Stop, but one suspect fired and wounded the G.I.

Fayetteville police do not encourage citizens to give chase because that can make matters worse.

"You like to hear about a hero," says Lt. Katherine Guilette of the Fayetteville Police Department, "and after the fact, when everybody's safe, you're like 'yeah, we got the bad guy and they helped us.' It's fantastic. But again to have that opportunity for the violence to escalate or injuries to happen to others, even a bystander. If the suspect becomes angry, who knows? If he could grab somebody, take somebody as a hostage because he knows he's being pursued by somebody, it can just really escalate the crime."

That may have happened this week. After a man tried to rob a business, an employee went looking for him. She saw him at a car wash, where he then swiped a car to get away.

So, instead of giving chase, what should you do? Fayetteville police say call them immediately and give the best description possible of any suspects or getaway vehicles. In other words, play it safe and let the pros doing the pursuing.