Local News

Warren County Growth Prompts Calls for More Deputies

Posted November 13, 2007 5:21 p.m. EST
Updated November 13, 2007 6:55 p.m. EST

— Residential growth near Lake Gaston has sparked an increase in business robberies, but Warren County officials can't agree on how to address the problem.

Area business owners said the rash of robberies is an unfortunate side-effect of growth. But they said a beefed-up law enforcement presence would help, noting they rarely see patrols in the area at night.

Andy's Restaurant, for example, was robbed at gunpoint in October, and manager Shonte Jones said deputies didn't arrive for a long time after the crime was reported.

"(Employees) had to call them back to make sure they were on their way about 15 minutes into it," Jones said.

Warren County Sheriff Johnny Williams said he can't put more patrols in the Lake Gaston area because he has only four deputies to patrol the entire county on any given shift.

"We have other calls that we must answer that have priority over us going up there when people are opening business and closing business," Williams said.

Neighboring Vance and Halifax counties have more deputies per capita than Warren County. Williams has proposed hiring four more deputies – almost a 25 percent increase over his staff of 15 deputies – so more patrols could be conducted near Lake Gaston.

The move, which would cost Warren County about $320,000, didn't make the cut during county budget sessions over the summer. But it could come up before commissioners again in December.

Some commissioners said they need more information before they commit to the move, such as proof that current staff can't handle the county's growth without help.

"If we're going to do something up there, we need to make sure what we do is going to work," Commissioner Ernie Fleming said.