CONNELLY SPRINGS – In less than two days, a community meeting was organized, and more than 50 residents let their voices be heard at the Connelly Springs Town Hall on Tuesday evening.
Burke County Sheriff Steve Whisnant, 25th District Attorney’s Office Investigator Steve Graves, and sheriff’s office detectives also were present to discuss the topic responsible for the community’s outcry: the recent surge in property crime.
Concerned residents filled the town hall’s community room, and those who called the meeting sought “answers” to the uptick in larceny in eastern Burke County.
However, Whisnant said the crime rate in Burke County the last two years has been the lowest in 17 years. He also said the office is understaffed and has as few as five patrol officers answering calls for 500 square miles.
“In the past three days, we’ve had 261 calls of incidents and reports to the sheriff’s office,” Whisnant said.
He highlighted the line drawn between property crime and drug abuse and said “almost everyone we arrest for property crime are substance abusers, almost 100 percent.”
“Drugs drive crime, not just here, but everywhere,” Whisnant said.
During the meeting, Whisnant also emphasized law enforcement’s efforts to expand community policing. Dedicating officers to specific areas helps them become more familiar with high crime zones and target houses and business, he added.
“You may deal with a criminal once,” Whisnant said. “But we deal with them over and over again,” citing the high rate of repeat offenders in the county.
Due to residents’ questions and complaints about a “slap on the wrist” mentality, Graves addressed the structured sentencing system in place in North Carolina.
Graves, who is an investigator for the 25th District Attorney’s Office and was a deputy from 1980-87, said…