Officers help residents take back their community

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, April 17, 2012

More than 100 people attended a “Taking Back our Community” meeting at the Pike County Courthouse Tuesday night.

Circuit Clerk Jamie Scarbrough opened the meeting with local crime statistics. Between January 2011 and April 17, 2012 in Pike County, there have been 89 warrants issued for theft, 62 for burglary, nine for manufacturing drugs, 38 for breaking and entering a vehicle, 41 for robbery, 101 for drug possession, four for rape, nine for sexual offender violations, seven for drug trafficking, 12 for attempted murder, three for murder and eight for capital murder.

“And those are just the cases where there are known suspects,” Scarbrough said.

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“Crime is everywhere. It’s in every county. It’s in every city. It’s in every state,” said Pike County Sheriff Russell Thomas as he addressed the crowd. “We’ve seen a lot more of that lately.”

Thomas was referring to a March 5 home invasion, two sexual assaults on March 26, an armed robbery on Troy University’s campus on April 1 and another home invasion on April 11. All of those incidents happened inside the city limits of Troy.

Scarbrough said she organized the event because of the recent crimes. She said she felt community members wanted to know what they could do implement pro-active safety measures.

The Troy Police Department, Troy University Police, Brundidge Police Department, Pike County Sheriff’s Department, attorneys, gun professionals and an alarm company were on hand to answer questions and give tips to the crowd.

Thomas told Pike County residents present to “trust their instincts,” relay information they have to law enforcement and to avoid dangerous situations such as opening doors to strangers.

Troy Police Sgt. Benny Scarbrough said law enforcement officers rely heavily on the community to be extra eyes and ears for the department.

“We can’t be everywhere at all times,” Sgt. Scarbrough said. “It’s all about all of us working together.”

Sgt. Scarbrough held up a suspect sketch and noted that the Troy Police are searching day and night for a rapist who attacked two young women at Hunter’s Mountain Mobile Estates on March 26.

Brandy Cox, a Troy firefighter, owns Firehouse Firearms and spoke to area residents about different methods of self-defense. He mentioned unconventional things, such as wasp spray with a reach of up to 15 feet that could come in handy if used like pepper spray.

“There may be a time and a place when protecting you or your family comes down to you,” Cox said. “You do what you have to do.”

Cox said to think about what you need a weapon to do and then consult with law enforcement or gun professionals to make the best choice.

Assistant District Attorney Jeff Moore and Pike County Bar Association President Malcolm McSwean spoke about the Castle Doctrine and Alabama’s Self-defense Law.

“A lot of this is just using common sense,” Moore explained. “You are immune from prosecution. We don’t pick you up. We don’t take you to court for protecting yourself and your family.”

The attorneys explained that, as of 2006, the use of deadly force is justifiable if anyone “unlawfully and forcefully entered a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle.” It’s also justifiable in instances of kidnappings and carjackings, the pair explained.

Pike County resident Willie Tyner said she walked away from the meeting feeling a little more confident.

“I came out tonight to see what I could and could not do to secure myself and protect myself within the law,” Tyner said. “I learned a lot.”

Judy Johns said she lives in the Heritage Ridge area of Troy and has been a little uneasy since the home invasion near her home on March 5.

“We are older,” Johns said of her and her husband. “It’s made us stop and think. It makes you worried to even go to the car alone, but I am much more aware after tonight.”

Scarbrough said she was pleased with the turnout Tuesday night and hopes that the community feels empowered and ready to take an active role in their safety, and their neighbors’ safety.