Woody Merry started a community meeting on Harrisburg crime by asking how many people have heard gunshots in their neighborhood.
A flurry of hands went up.
“The community as a whole is scared,” said Merry, a longtime Augusta community activist.
About 40-50 members of the Harrisburg community met over breakfast Thursday to discuss ways to take back their neighborhood.
For starters, Merry recommended that all residents take a self-defense class.
Richmond County sheriff’s Deputy Rob Blandinburg, who owns a martial arts school in Augusta and frequently responds to calls in Harrisburg, demonstrated simple self-defense techniques with the promise to teach more classes for free in the community.
“I know how dangerous it is walking around at night in this community,” Blandinburg said. “I carry a gun, and I’m still a little worried.”
Merry said the community is going to employ new tactics that will not only cut down on crime but will provide a template for other neighborhoods to follow.
The community accepted donations to purchase surveillance and dash-cams to place around the neighborhood.
In addition, neighbors will be using images and videos captured from the cameras and other devices to post to Facebook and a neighborhood Web site alerting others of suspicious people and vehicles. Also, images of blighted properties and contact information for their owners will be posted.
Merry said one of the plans is to build a database of license plates of vehicles that don’t belong there.
Residents will also be taking to the streets to help in enforcement.
“We’re not trying to engage anybody,” Lori Davis, a Harrisburg activist and former mayoral candidate, said to the crowd. “We’re just trying to write down what is wrong.”
Susan Rabon, a 12-year resident who has been a victim of crime in Harrisburg, said she hopes to see a change in the neighborhood but fears some of the new tactics could be misused.
“The citizens need to empower themselves, but we need to go about it carefully,” she said.