An activist group says its tactic of taking on crime in Harrisburg without relying on police is already working.
From today to Monday, 1,000 two-sided, informational fliers are to be dispersed around the most troublesome areas in the Augusta neighborhood, including Pearl Avenue and Hicks Street. It is one step of many that are expected to be met with positive feedback, according to CSRA Help spokesman Woody Merry.
One side of the flier will have information about CSRA Help, including dates and times of self-defense classes and an agenda of events. It will also give information about surveillance efforts by the group and how to get involved. On the other side of the flier will be a statement that reads, “Had enough? We have,” and a reminder about the slaying of Anthony Dewayne King, who was shot during an attempted carjacking in the 700 block of Crawford Avenue in August, and a kidnapping that ended on Tuttle Street in September, Merry said.
“We want criminals to know they are being watched,” he said. “We can do some things that law enforcement can’t.”
In an e-mail to the group Wednesday, Augusta Properties, which owns property in the area, posted an emergency notice to all residents in the area to remind them they are responsible for any guests on their property, whether or not they are invited. The note stemmed from a shooting Tuesday night that injured two people on Pearl Avenue.
In the e-mail, Eric Blackwell, of Augusta Properties, said that the people shot didn’t live in the household where the incident occurred and that he will be filing an eviction notice to the apartment that had guests involved.
“We as usual take a stand against crime and lease violations. We are all on top of this issue, and thanks for your support,” the e-mail said.
Merry said it is not the first time the group has gotten a response from property owners that spurs action. He said the group is actively working with owners to get problem households evicted.
“Anytime a property owner is proactive with their tenants is good,” said Richmond County
sheriff’s Capt. Scott Gay. “From a law enforcement perspective, it’s always best to have law-abiding citizens at the property.”
Gay said having people in neighborhoods who are paying attention and are willing to talk to police is good. Groups such as CSRA Help are welcome so long as they do not try to be “vigilantes,” Gay said.
Merry said CSRA Help will not sit back and watch neighborhoods fall apart at the hands of drug dealers and other criminals. On Tuesday, the group cut down a known “drug tree” in Harrisburg.
CSRA Help is teaming up with a few retired special forces members who are helping them set up surveillance, he said, another project which has already seen positive feedback. He said a neighborhood woman told him she was used to hearing gunshots every night. On Thursday, her street was silent.
“She thanked me,” he said. “People around here know it’s working.”
Gay said he hoped the group is consulting a lawyer about the surveillance tactics. He said residents are allowed to set up cameras to protect their property, but cannot use them to spy on other people.
CSRA Help will hold a self-defense class at the Harrisburg Life Center at 10 a.m. today.
“We’re going to be more aware, more alert,” Merry said. “We are going to take out the fear factor. We want people to know they don’t have to take this.”