FLAT ROCK — One local community is going on the offensive to combat drug-related crime.
On Saturday Barbara France, a resident of what is commonly known as Simmonstown, held a community event which included corn hole, bingo and many other fun activities. However, the intent behind the gathering at the corner of Gaylon Street and Eleanor Avenue was actually quite serious.
France said since her retirement in May, she has been watching – and she’s hoping others will help her watch – the neighborhood.
She says the streets of Simmonstown, which was originally known as the Timberlake community, are bustling – with drug dealers.
France said drug dealers are visible – even during daylight hours – in the community, and in her retirement she has the time to help put a stop to it and draw neighbors together.
Surry County Sheriff Graham Atkinson confirmed drug activity is prevalent in the area, and as part of Saturday’s event, two deputies presented some guidance for starting a neighborhood watch program to the 30 or so community members who were present.
Deputies Brian Thomas and C.T. Martin told the crowd they won’t be the first group of concerned residents to form a watch group.
“Getting together and getting to know each other is the first step,” said Thomas. “It (a watch program) costs nothing, and it actually does prevent crime.”
As Thomas passed out literature, Martin told those who had assembled that a neighborhood watch group is beneficial for all parties.
“It can help us do our job better,” said Martin. “It’s a great thing a lot of communities have started doing.”
He noted many people are away from home throughout the day. Thus, it helps if neighbors are looking out for one another. The deputy encouraged residents to call at the first sign of suspicious activity, such as a car or a person which doesn’t belong in the neighborhood.
“We can’t be here 24/7, but you all are here,” remarked Martin.
While breaking and entering crimes were a topic of conversation, both deputies agreed much of the crime activity in Surry County relates to larceny crimes.
Thomas said there has been a trend of utility trailers being stolen throughout the county.
“The number-one rule in prevention is make it hard for them to get,” explained Thomas, noting residents should secure items such as lawnmowers and trailers with a chain and lock if they cannot be stored indoors.
He did say larcenies are often related to drug activity, which is a major concern in Simmonstown.
“They stand up here in broad daylight and sell drugs,” said France. “What is that showing the children in the neighborhood?”
Thomas told France the activity should be reported to the sheriff’s office. A deputy could drive by and question those standing on the corner of Eleanor and Gaylon Streets. It could lead to an arrest, but the gesture would surely shut down the drug operation for a while.
If there are enough complaints, the department might even look at using undercover narcotics forces in the neighborhood, said Thomas.
Martin said those people making complaints should try to give a good description of people or vehicles involved. Additionally, people who might fear acts of retribution for making a complaint need only tell the dispatcher they wish to remain anonymous.
France said she hopes the formation of the group can spur some positive movement in a neighborhood to which Domino’s Pizza won’t even deliver.
She said she was impressed by the turnout at the group’s first event, and many are stepping up to the plate. The Family Worship Center, a church located on Gaylon Street, will be involved in the program, and a monthly meeting of the group will take place in the church’s basement.
France said she will continue to reach out to her neighbors, so that Simmonstown, or Timberlake as she prefers to call it, can shake its reputation as a center for drug activity in town.
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.