Edgecombe County Sheriff James Knight and his opponent, political newcomer J. Allen Dennie, agree that getting more participation from members of the community is essential to reducing crime rates.
“I’m a strong proponent of community policing,” Dennie said. “I want the deputies to recognize those people in the neighborhood that live there and recognize when someone doesn’t belong. I want those deputies to recognize that then figure out who that person is and what they are doing there.”
Dennie was an auxiliary deputy working part time for the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office for three decades – including serving as a K-9 officer – while working as a senior architectural planner for Embarq Communications. The Edgecombe County native also has served as chief of the Conetoe Volunteer Fire Department since 1977 and works as a police officer for Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.
Knight started at the sheriff’s office in 1983, rising to the rank of sergeant before being appointed sheriff in 1997 and being re-elected to the post since. He said being in the position for more than a decade has allowed him to build rapport with the residents throughout the county.
“I’m proud that we have an open-door policy that allows the citizens to feel comfortable bringing any issues to us and knowing we are accessible to them at all times,” Knight said.
Dennie said he’d focus on special demographic groups including guarding the senior citizens of the county against scam artists as well as younger residents by combating gangs and drugs. While school resource officers would not be assigned to the county’s elementary and middle schools on a full-time basis, Dennie said he’d like to have deputies stop by and patrol these schools on an irregular basis as well as assign deputies to a traffic unit, a warrant squad and a special response team.
“The way the sheriff’s department is today just screams for restructuring,” Dennie said. “It has too many positions instead of deputies working the streets.”
Knight said the low levels of violent crime are proof that the department’s current organization works. Part of that success, though, he attributes to partnerships with other agencies.
“Criminals don’t let county or municipal lines stop them, so in order to combat their activities, we can’t let jurisdictions stop us either,” Knight said.
If re-elected, Knight said he’d like to implement an explorer program for area youth to learn more about careers in law enforcement as well as a focus on combating internet crime. He plans to appoint an electronic specialist to handle sexting and other social media threats in addition to educational opportunities to emphasize the dangers of online activity.
Dennie urged consideration among those voters apprehensive about the fact he worked part-time in law enforcement instead of full time.
“My wife and I bought the first K-9 the department had had in a long time and we were so successful as a team that I was selected as the most outstanding K-9 officer in the state of North Carolina in 2001,” Dennie said. “If I was a true part-time deputy, I would not have gotten that award, but our results were outstanding and deserved recognition.”