ROBESON COUNTY, NC (WMBF) - Hundreds of people packed the Givens Performing Arts Center at the University of North Carolina Pembroke Monday morning for the swearing in of Burnis Wilkins as Robeson County Sheriff along with his command staff, deputies, correction officers, and support staff.
Burnis reigned as Lumberton city councilman earlier this year after he was elected to office in May to replace former Sheriff Kenneth Sealey who retired last week.
Sealey attended Wilkins’ ceremony.
To a crowd full of newly sworn-in deputies, local leaders, and the community, Sheriff Burnis Wilkins reiterated having an aggressive, yet professional approach to cracking down on crime in the area.
"We are recognized as number one for a lot of the wrong reasons and I'm going to try my best to get us out of that,” Wilkins said during his speech.
Wilkins also emphasized more organizations, like the Bibles and Badges program for troubled youth, neighborhood watch groups and more community involvement with his department. However, he stressed the public has to be as equally involved.
"We can have the nice cars and nice equipment and the highly trained staff, but without the public joining in and helping us throughout this county, we can't do it alone so I'm asking the public to get more involved and engaged with us and we'll be engaged with them,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins continued to speak about the biggest issues facing Robeson County: drugs and gangs. He said drug dealers and gang members are his targets, which he said are the reasons for the majority of other crimes in the county.
"If you ever have break-ins, or larcenies or robberies it's usually those folks doing that to get the money to purchase the drugs from the drug dealer," Wilkins said.
Pearlean Revels, a Robeson County resident and attendee, echoed the same sentiments. Revels said she supported Wilkins because of the more than three decades of experience he has in law enforcement.
"Right now this is what we need to be working towards is trying to save our youth, our young people from drugs and um the crime in this county is just terrible," Revels said.
With a clear warning to criminals, Wilkins said he wants the community to know he's going to do all he can to move Robeson County in the right direction.
"To the criminal element, we’re coming. To the good people of Robeson County, give us a chance. It won’t happen overnight, it didn’t occur overnight, just give us a chance and I’m going to make it a better place for you to call home,” Wilkins said.