Community feedback: Less than impressed

Feb. 26, 2013 @ 10:36 PM

Hundreds of concerned citizens filled the auditorium at E.M. Rollins Elementary School Tuesday evening for a community safety meeting led by the Vance County Schools Board of Education.

With three teens being shot to death in the past eight months, including one last Thursday, many parents have reason to worry about the safety of their children.

They showed up in droves Tuesday night, making up the majority of an audience that was comprised of business leaders, law enforcement agencies, representatives of the district attorney’s office, pastors, city and county representatives, principals, assistant principals, teachers, central office administration and staff, court system representatives, judges, lawyers and concerned community members.

“I’m here to give support to my community and give suggestions on how we can make it a better place,” said Fredericka Wynn before the forum began.

Wynn has three children in the Vance County Schools system, including two at the early college, and one at Henderson Middle School.

“I’ve never seen nothing like this,” Wynn said. “It’s past time for parents to come together.

“It’s time for that village to raise children again.”

Other crimes committed in Henderson recently included two people shot to death at a motel on Feb. 16, four carjackings since Jan. 24, including two involving assaults on women, and two weekend armed robberies at vehicles, including one with a man shot.

Many arrived at the meeting thinking those recent events were the reason for the meeting. But it was actually the culmination of ideas formed shortly after the Dec. 11 shooting death of Deonte Judkins, a 16-year-old student at Northern Vance High School.

“We’re being noticed and recognized for the wrong reasons,” said Harry Gregory, a concerned citizen. “I want to be a part of the solution.”

A sense of uneasiness and fear was portrayed as student representatives from each school in Vance County spoke about their feelings toward safety.

“School is not as safe as it should be,” said Trin Terry, an eighth-grade student at Henderson Middle School.

Jada Kingsberry, also a student at Henderson Middle, mentioned a prevalent amount of gangs present at her school, describing her community as “out of control.”

“I don’t feel safe at my school at all,” Kingsberry said. “There are a lot of gang members at my school.

“My community is out of control.”

Sam Long of Northern Vance said he was concerned for the safety of himself and others, and sensed a hysteria forming from false messages of rape and robbery spreading through social media.

After the meeting, Melaine Griggs, assistant principal at Rollins, mentioned positive points of education in Vance County, aspects that have been overshadowed by crime.

“It’s a shame that a few tragic issues can take away from a lot of positives,” Griggs said. “The STEM program is doing a lot of good things, the early college program. These kids have done a really great job.”

Contact the writer at amauser@hendersondispatch.com.