There is one constant in east Augusta that many residents there would like to see change.
It remains the highest concentrated area for drug activity in Richmond County, according to law enforcement agencies and an Augusta Chronicle analysis of recent drug arrests.
Fifteen percent of the 93 drug arrests this year originated in east Augusta, more
than double the percentage of any other area.
The Rev. Chris Waters at Thankful Baptist Church said his congregation is suffering because of the problem.
“If you go down Walker Street any time of day, you’ll see drug activity,” he said.
The church at Walker and Third streets has had to push its Bible study and choir practices earlier in the day because of fears in the community.
Waters said many of the church members have become “prisoners in their own community.”
One of the main problems in east Augusta are sellers among abandoned homes, said Capt. Scott Gay, one of 10 members of the sheriff’s office’s Crime Suppression Unit.
“Operationally, it’s very difficult,” he said.
The sheriff’s office defines east Augusta as the slice of Richmond County bordered by Laney-Walker Boulevard, Walton Way and the Savannah River.
East Boundary sees the most drug-related problems. Carrie Street, off Laney-Walker Boulevard, and Eve Street in Harrisburg follow closely behind, said Gay, whose unit tackles street-level narcotic sales.
Gay said crack cocaine is the top illegal drug, followed by marijuana and methamphetamine.
Though there are more cases for marijuana, he said crack is more problematic.
In 2011, the sheriff’s office made 1,429 drug arrests. The number has dropped slightly every year since 2009, when it reached 1,633.
East Augusta is not alone in having problems with drug activity. The communities of Harrisburg, Barton Village, Meadowbrook and Bethlehem are all considered problem areas by law enforcement. The neighborhoods together account for 13 percent of this year’s drug cases.
It’s imperative, Gay said, that residents do their part in getting rid of drug dealers.
“The neighborhood can make or break the case,” he said. “It’s a whole lot easier for the bad guys to go to a neighborhood where their neighbors don’t care.”
The Rev. Larry Fryer said he’s trying to work with the community to change the mindset of the young people he sees on the streets near his church – Hudson Memorial CME at East Boundary and Taylor Street. All they can see is the money drug dealers make, but he sees that money leading to further violence on the streets of east Augusta.
“This is important because children are dying at my feet, and it’s not all physical death,” he said.
Staff writer Sandy Hodson contributed to this report.