Sheriff Larry Rollins told a crowd of more than 100 people at the Spring Hill United Methodist Church Monday that they need to be able to protect themselves against violence, WTVD-TV reports.
"I want my deputies at your house just as fast as they possibly can when you got a problem, but you better be able to take care of business until we get there if you have to protect your family," Rollins reportedly said during the "Pray for Peace" community meeting.
CBS affiliate WRAL said the meeting came after several shootings, including the death of 18-year-old Eric Staten, whose body was found behind a dumpster in Spring Lake on Saturday.
Residents who attended the meeting were given the opportunity to express their fears to officials.
"I think they are working hard trying to get solutions for us which comforts us a little bit, but still knowing it's out there and knowing it happens every day, still doesn't make you feel safe," Jamie Salmon told WTVD.
Rollins told those in attendance to report all suspicious activity, no matter how minor it may look.