ROBESON COUNTY, N.C. (WBTW) — In this week’s First Responder Friday segment, we introduce you to Sgt. Hollis McNeill of the Robeson County Sheriff’s Office.

“I have a helping heart,” McNeill said. “I want to help people no matter color, creed, age.”

McNeill has been with the department for 16 years. He said it’s the career he has dreamed of since he was a young boy.

“Growing up, you know, I always thought being a cop was cool,” he said. “In my mind, it was drive fast, you know, get to wear a uniform, you got a gun. But as I matured, I realized you actually get to help people.”

McNeill currently works as the department’s SWAT commander, a position he’s held for 12 years.

“I don’t have hours,” he said. “The population I deal with, there’s no sit time, you know? I had one almost die last night in a back of a seat of a car.”

McNeill said law-enforcment officers have to mature faster in Robeson County because it’s considered a violent area.

“A lot of counties, they’ll see three homicides in a year,” he said. “We could see three of those in a week.”

In fact, just last month the county saw three murders in less than 24 hours, and a fourth one only three days later.

“A lot of our stuff is based around drug use and drug abuse,” he said. “It’s a violent county in nature for some reason.”

To help combat the violence, McNeill also runs a program called “Law Enforcement Assisted Division,” also referred to as LEAD.

“We put 200 plus people inpatient in a year,” McNeill said. “The community calls ’em the lowest of the low. Now, you’re giving them housing, you’re giving them, you’re giving ’em purpose. Now, I know when somebody’s got a drug addiction or a problem, jail is not the place for them. I’m trying to spread that.”

That’s something that coincides with what he considers to be the best part of his job.

“One of the best things for me is when you take the lowest of the low, the one that the community says ‘he’s no good.’ You take that person and you mold them into a good citizen,” McNeill said. “You can’t put a price on that.”

Grant funding for the LEAD program will expire on June 30, McNeill said. However, Sheriff Burniss Wilkins has created another program take its place — the “Substance Abuse Freedom and Education” program, also known as S.A.F.E.

It is supported by residents, local churches and other organizations’ donations to the sheriff’s charitable foundation.  

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Melissa Meyers is a weekday morning anchor at News13. She’s from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Melissa moved to Myrtle Beach to work for News13 after graduating from Kent State University. Follow Melissa on Twitter and read more of her work here.