Deputies react after some Witcher Creek residents arm themselves following thefts

Some Witcher Creek residents say they are feeling forced to arm themselves after a recent spike in crime there. The Kanawha County Sheriff's Office is cautioning them about "vigilante justice." (WCHS/WVAH)

Some residents in Eastern Kanawha County are trying to send a message to law enforcement about crime in their community.

Steve Nelson has lived in Witcher Creek for 60 years. He Is now taking matters into his own hands by organizing a community meeting to talk about crime.

"This community needs help, and they need help desperately," Nelson said.

Nelson said thieves are stopping at nothing to get inside homes and garages.

"And they're getting braver and braver and braver, " he said.

Valeda Crisp said someone broke into her home this past week, walked into her bedroom, and took money and cell phones off her nightstand, just inches away from where she was sleeping.

"And I was just asleep. Just totally defenseless really," Crisp said.

Now these Witcher Creek residents are making sure they no longer feel defenseless. Many of them are buying guns and surveillance systems. They have even created a neighborhood watch. But these are precautions they feel they shouldn't have to take.

"Our biggest problem is -- what we feel -- is a lack of interest by the police," said Lora Thompson, a 45-year-resident of Witcher Creek.

Thompson said help doesn't always come when they call for it.

But Sgt. Brian Humphreys, spokesman for the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office, said the sheriff's office uses its resources wisely.

"A priority call -- where someone's life is in danger -- is going to take precedence over something reported after-the-fact.," Humphreys said.

In other words, a car wreck would come before a break-in call, if the burglar is no longer present.

Humphreys also warns there is a fine line between lawfully protecting what is yours and vigilante justice.

"If they are caught snooping around your detached garage, that is not authorization to use lethal force. When you are inside your home and someone breaks in your home coming after you, then you can use lethal force."

It's useful information for a community on edge.

"We are going to take back our community," Nelson said.

Another concern from these community members is that some suspects who are arrested are quickly released from custody. Humphreys said in some cases, break-ins are misdemeanors that carry short, if any, jail time, also making them more likely to have a low bond set.

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