The League of Women Voters (LWV) hosted its monthly forum last Thursday at Tartan Hall in the First Presbyterian Church. A nonpartisan civic group, the LWV hosts a variety of guests to bring awareness to local concerns. This particular meeting saw former Sheriff Homer Holbrooks (1986-2002) join current Sheriff Robbie Holland (2002-Present) for an hour's worth of discussion about their roles in the years in which they are serving or have served in the county.
Holland opened up the forum by discussing the path he took that brought him to the office of sheriff.
“I went to Homer looking for a job and he was a little uneasy about putting me on patrol because I looked so young,” said Holland. “I participated in a cadet program with teenagers and had a terrible time with one in particular. I realized after a while that she thought I was a student so that's why she was being so difficult. From there I worked with animal control, then juveniles, and then I had the opportunity to run for sheriff and I was blessed to be elected, but I have to thank Homer for giving me the opportunity to get started.”
The audience was afforded the opportunity to ask questions throughout the presentation. The two were questioned about whether there are trends in when certain crimes are committed. Of interesting note, Holbrooks pointed to the spike in breaking and entering trends around Superior Court dates.
“We can't really use data to prove it because the truth is, there's so many that go unsolved, but I believe that there is an obvious spike before Superior Court dates,” he said. “People need money to pay fines and if they don't have it, they may go break into a home and take some power tools to pawn. They may only be able to sell a chain-saw for $50, but that's $50 more that they didn't have.”
Continuing discussion about area burglaries, the two shared tactics that criminals may resort to in order to get money for things that have been stolen and ways that victims, may never get complete redemption.
“The problem is that we'll recover that chainsaw, but we have to keep it as evidence until after the trial. If you need to cut down a tree you might just have to go spend another $500 to get a chainsaw so you can do the job,” said Holland.
Holbrooks pointed out that a person may never be able to get their saw back and if they do, the person who committed the crime may get away with it.
“When a defense attorney pulls out five chainsaws in the courtroom and they all look like yours he's going to ask you how you know the one you pointed out is yours. If you don't know the serial number, it's going to be hard to prove and that person may get found not guilty,” said Holbrooks.
Another member of the audience asked about the changes that have affected crime in the county and the Sheriff. Holland commented on the steady trends of crime itself as well as the use of technology in his line of work.
“The county continues to grow, of course, so crime continues to happen as more and more people move in here,” said Holland. “I think we have the second lowest crime rate in Western North Carolina though so we are proud of that. The biggest change as far as for the Sheriff and the Sheriff's Department is probably the addition of computers. The first time Homer came into my office and what was formerly his office, I was almost embarrassed that there was a computer sitting on the desk.”
“I still don't know how to do much with those things,” laughed Holbrooks.