Aberdeen police take aim at hotel to reduce violent crime - WNCT

Aberdeen police take aim at hotel to reduce violent crime

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ABERDEEN, N.C. -

Business owner Jeff Gollehonn is well aware the area near his financial planning office in Aberdeen has seen four homicides since late July.

Gollehonn's office is just behind the Country Hearth Inn where two of the homicides have happened – one in July and one in September. There was also a homicide outside the Burger King in Aberdeen in August. The most recent homicide was Sunday night in the parking lot of the Lowe's Home Improvement store in Southern Pines.

"Everybody's well aware of what's going on around here," Gollehonn said.

The crimes have all happened in the area where southern pines and Aberdeen meet – a truly high-traffic spot, both in cars and people.  It is where U.S. Highway 15/501, U.S. highway 1 and N.C. Highway 211 come together and or split, depending on your direction of travel. There are grocery stores, fast food and traditional restaurants, and other businesses at every turn.

Aberdeen's police chief who just started in September points out how rare the violent crimes are.

"I think the last homicide prior to my getting here was about eight years ago," said Chief Tim Wenzel.

While the shootings have all involved people who knew each other, there is still concern that they have happened in such public areas. There has been enough criminal activity at the Country Hearth Inn that police threatened a lawsuit to force the owners to make changes.

"The types of things that were going on there, the homicides were a result of that," Wenzel said.

SO to avoid the lawsuit, the owner decided to shut down for a month make some changes. There is a new manager, an armed security guard at night and surveillance cameras linked directly to the police. A new name is in the works too.

"The public's got to realize we're not sitting back and watching this happen," Wenzel said. "We are taking steps to get rid of the problem."

He hopes criminals will get that message too. Gollehonn certainly has. He still feels safe at his business, but he understands the need to push the nearby motel to take action.

"We're very happy that things are getting better back there now," Gollehonn said.

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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