Last updated: July 17. 2013 1:19PM - 371 Views

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Rachel Dove-Baldwin

Staff Writer

WILLIAMSON — When the residents of the Williamson Towers, a high-rise residential community located in West Williamson began voicing their concerns about the crime rate in Mingo County and in their neighborhood, several county and state officials set up a Town Hall meeting to give the concerned citizens an opportunity to air their complaints and to meet with and acquaint themselves with those responsible for curtailing crime.

Friday at noon, West Virginia House of Delegates representative Justin Marcum, who also serves Mingo County as an assistant prosecutor, Special Investigator Eugene Crum, Chief Magistrate Dallas Toler and Prosecuting Attorney Michael Sparks attended the meeting and addressed the concerns voiced by the residents of the Towers.

“Mingo County has been divided for way too many years,” said Shirley Hinkle. “That’s why nothing has ever worked here before, and I for one, say it’s good to see change taking place.”

Hinkle commented about the escalating crime rates that have steadily risen throughout the past few years, and said she was happy to hear of drug arrests being made within the county. She told Special Investigator Crum that she definitely applauded his efforts in this matter and said she was grateful to all the officers who were doing such a wonderful job protecting the public.

Another Towers resident, Sherry Smith, told those in attendance that had it not been for the caring employees of the Tug Valley Recovery Shelter (TVRS) and Mingo County Family Court Judge Miki Thompson, she may have never been free of a relationship that almost cost the former resident of Logan County her life.

“He held a gun to my head for hours,” said Smith, with tears streaming down her face. “I thought I would be killed.”

“I wasn’t aware that he was a convicted felon, I had no idea he was a violent person,” Smith explained.

After finally managing to get away from him, Smith was transported to the TVRS, where she was given a safe place to stay and other items she needed, and received assistance with the legal steps she had to take to acquire a restraining order against the defendant.

“Judge Thompson went above the call of duty to help me,” stated Smith. “She granted a lifetime restraining order that prevents him from ever contacting me again. I couldn’t ask or expect more than that.”

Smith said that the defendant who abused her is scheduled for a court hearing in Logan County next month, and stated that she is hoping and praying that justice is served.

“He belongs behind bars,” commented Sparks. “I’m sure they will do the right thing and punish him accordingly for the crimes he committed.”

The residents spoke of the problem of public intoxication and the Daily News article they had read regarding the legislative changes Marcum is planning to propose regarding the law and the penalties that need to be enforced against those who commit this crime.

“It’s scary to know that these people can walk around in an intoxicated state and they won’t be arrested,” said Hinkle. It’s not only dangerous for us, but it’s also dangerous for them. If they’re not aware of what’s going on around them because of being high or drunk, they could very easily stumble out into the street and be hit by a car and killed.”

Marcum and Sparks assured Hinkle that steps were being taken to alleviate this problem and asked her to be patient, saying that they were hopeful changes would be in place in the near future.

“I think it’s wonderful that you guys took the time to come and meet with us and talk to us about the problems within the county. It’s very refreshing to see a hand’s on team of public officials that will actually come and speak with you about your concerns.”

“It’s also great to be able to put a face with a name, some of us that live here aren’t able to get out a lot and we don’t always know who everyone is.”

“It’s been a pleasure to spend time with you guys and always know that if you need us – we’re only a phone call away,” stated Magistrate Toler. “You elected us – therefore we serve you. That’s what we do.”

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