Last updated: July 17. 2013 5:41PM - 203 Views
Bob Fala

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SYLVESTER - This tiny city still looks like a scene from Leave It to Beaver, and its citizens are just as kind and caring as Ward and June Cleaver.
Indeed, it is a perfect place to buy a home and raise a family.
Unfortunately for Sylvester residents, the first verb in the previous sentence soon could change, if it hasn’t already.
From is to was.
Criminals are terrorizing the town, which stretches only four-tenths of a mile from one end to the other and has 99 houses with 199 residents between the blue-and-white signs that welcome those who enter it.
“It was a model community,” Sylvester Mayor Manuel Arvon said, “but it has become a jungle.”
Criminals are breaking into homes and businesses to steal whatever they can, mostly money or items they can sell for cash. The thieves also are taking cars, then vandalizing or burning them.
Arvon said there were 16 incidents in 14 days during a stretch from August into September.
“Someone went into a blind man’s house, and they stole his safe and two pistols, and they took his blank checks and they have passed four of them up there at the food market,” Arvon said. “One lady indicated she woke up in bed and a guy was standing over her.
“One guy said someone went into his bedroom while he was asleep. He always puts his pants on the floor. The next morning, he found his pants in another room and he saw his money was gone. He now has a shotgun beside his door and a pistol on his coffee table.
“People have been terrorized,” he added. “I’m concerned for the safety and welfare of our community.”
When he and his wife returned from their vacation last month, Arvon hadn’t unloaded his luggage before a concerned citizen confronted him about the crime spree.
“You are going to have to do something,” the man told the mayor. “They are stealing us blind here. We are afraid in our own houses.”
Arvon and several Sylvester residents attended the Boone County Commission meeting last week to voice their concerns.
“We need some help,” Arvon told President Mickey Brown and Commissioners Gordon Eversole and Atholl “Al” Halstead.
As Arvon and his constituents spoke before the commission, someone broke into David Hamilton’s home and stole a circular saw. How is that for poetic injustice?
Arvon has hired a police chief, Ricky Brown.
“He’s willing to sacrifice himself to help us and our community,” Arvon said. “I admire him. You have to have courage to be a police officer.”
Brown obviously has courage. The only problem is, he has no experience. However, Arvon is sending Brown to a three-day training session next week.
Brown already has encountered the city’s criminal element during his brief tenure.
“He approached three suspicious characters and they gave him a hard time,” Arvon said. “He felt threatened so he pulled his pistol and they scattered. You can’t have that kind of cat-and-mouse game. We have to have some help.”
Arvon doesn’t think Sylvester has received its fair share of help from law enforcement officials at the Madison-based Boone County Sheriff’s Department and the Whitesville-based West Virginia State Police.
“The police won’t come,” said Arvon, who wants to have a community meeting on Sept. 18 at Sylvester Town Hall. “They just aren’t interested.”
Boone County Sheriff Rodney A. Miller said that isn’t the case.
He said people must realize it isn’t possible for his deputies to report to every call in Sylvester — or Madison, Nellis, Twilight, Greenview and other Boone County communities, for that matter.
“As far as positioning a deputy in Sylvester, that makes it difficult because I’m robbing the unincorporated areas of the county to send a deputy into a municipality that has its own police force,” said Miller, who wants to attend Arvon’s community meeting or have one of his own to discuss the situation. “I certainly don’t want to slight the citizens of Sylvester because they are taxpayers, too.
“But it’s difficult, with the resources we have available to us, to have complete coverage at all times for the 526 square miles that we have in this county.
“We don’t try to overshadow or run roughshod over other law enforcement entities. If they ask for our assistance and it is within our means to do that, then we will.”
Miller emphasized that his agency will work with Arvon and Sylvester residents to find a solution for their problem.
“We aren’t butting heads with those citizens,” Miller said. “We agree with them. For their best interest and ours as well, we have to figure out a way to help them.”
Arvon is happy to hear that. Nevertheless, he is afraid the worst is yet to come.
“If you know there aren’t any police officers around and if you know the police officers aren’t going to do anything even if somebody calls them, then you know you can pick your grapes whenever and wherever you want,” he said.
That is why it is so important “to nip this in the bud,” as Arvon said.
“If we can’t protect our citizens and ensure their safety,” he said, “then what are we here for.”
Contact Managing Editor Jacob Messer at HYPERLINK "jacobmesser@coalvalleynews.com" jacobmesser@coalvalleynews.com or 369-1165.
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