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Rising crime rattles old Augusta neighborhood

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Julie Roberts' back door is protected on the outside by heavy iron bars and an alarm that will sound if anyone tampers with them.

Melvin Roberts Jr. and his wife, Julie, longtime residents of Norton Acres, are joining many of their neighbors in Columbia County because they don't feel safe in their own neighborhood.   Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Melvin Roberts Jr. and his wife, Julie, longtime residents of Norton Acres, are joining many of their neighbors in Columbia County because they don't feel safe in their own neighborhood.

From the inside she secures the door with a deadbolt and a heavy wooden plank that rests across the width of the door.

She also has a big dog and a gun to ward off intruders when her husband leaves for work.

But it's not enough.

"I don't feel safe. I don't feel comfortable," she said.

Roberts lives in Norton Acres, a blue-collar neighborhood just east of Deans Bridge Road, in between Wheeless Road and Gordon Highway.

The families who originally settled here in the '60s and '70s have mostly fled from what they're calling a surge in neighborhood crime over the past two or three years. Roberts and her husband are joining them in their flight to neighboring Columbia County.

While she's excited to move somewhere she feels safe, Roberts feels torn about leaving the home where she raised her daughters.

"It's sad and bittersweet," she said from a chair surrounded by the clutter of a house upended by transition.

The couple had hoped to travel after paying off their house in Norton Acres, but now they have a new mortgage in Columbia County. Still, it's the price they're willing to pay if it means their grandchildren can visit them at home again.

"We're prisoners in our own homes and that's what bothers us," she said.

Other neighbors, most of whom have already left Norton Acres, report similar problems, though not to the extent as Roberts.

Irene Stewart's house of 41 years on Lee Street burned down two years ago because of an accidental kitchen fire.

She moved into St. John Towers downtown as the crime in the neighborhood started to increase. Stewart said she's shocked by the reports coming back from her old friends.

"Just about everybody on the street has been broken into," she said.

While it was devastating to lose his childhood home, Stewart's son, Ralph, said "in all regards it was a blessing" that the home was burned down.

"She kept talking about rebuilding the place and we kept discouraging her," said Ralph Stewart, who didn't want his aging mother living in that neighborhood.

A builder he contacted about putting a new home on his mother's lot agreed. Ralph Stewart said he was told the neighborhood "was too far gone" for there to be any benefit gained by rebuilding.

Patricia Bennett rents out her childhood home, which she said was broken into two weekends ago. The house was burglarized twice while her son lived there, she said.

"When it was vacant and I was working on it, there were a lot of strange people walking back and forth," she said.

Bennett added, however, that crime can be found anywhere.

Laquita Boykins still lives in Norton Acres, but she wasn't home when someone kicked in her door recently. Her daughter and her grandson were inside, and scared off the intruder.

Boykins said she plans to reactivate her burglar alarm, but doesn't expect to leave her neighborhood.

"I love it," she said. "Still do."

While multiple burglaries of their home have discouraged the Robertses, nothing compares to the time Roberts was robbed at gunpoint.

On the evening of Dec. 31, 2009, Roberts returned home with her two grandchildren, then ages 2 and 5. Roberts was stepping out of her SUV when she felt a gun press hard into her back.

"Give me your purse and turn around," the robber said.

Roberts reached into the truck to grab her purse and turned to face the robber. She looked into his eyes and pleaded: "Please don't kill me."

The robber grabbed the purse and ran away. Roberts' grandchildren were screaming with fear, but Roberts decided the best thing was to lock them in the vehicle and go into the house to call for help. Her shaking hands could barely unlock the door.

"I don't want to go through that again," she said.

Richmond County sheriff's Capt. Scott Peebles said Norton Acres is one of several areas experiencing a rise in property crimes. But arrests have gone up significantly, particularly with the Burglary Task Force, Peebles said.

Road patrols do the best they can, but there are only so many resources available.

"You can't be everywhere at once," he said. "Other than standing guard 24 hours a day, you do what you can to keep patrols up."

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Riverman1
82167
Points
Riverman1 07/17/11 - 09:17 pm
0
0
The residents should get

The residents should get together and start to pay the RCSO for specials for police protection. If Peebles says they don't have enough people and can't protect the neighborhood, that's about the only way.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 07/17/11 - 09:56 pm
0
0
Riverman...they'd have enough

Riverman...they'd have enough people if they keep the repeats behind bars. I'm not accepting that excuse anymore. Kid that broke into my house and 5/6 others got NO punishment. He will do it again. And when he does what are they going to say..."we know this is his 22nd burglary, but we just don't have enough officers to keep up with him". LOL

Riverman1
82167
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Riverman1 07/17/11 - 09:59 pm
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Patty, there was a degree of

Patty, there was a degree of sarcasm in my suggestion. :)

raul
4537
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raul 07/17/11 - 10:05 pm
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Oh Countyman??

Oh Countyman??

Patty-P
3516
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Patty-P 07/17/11 - 10:16 pm
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River...there was a little

River...there was a little truth AND sarcasm in my suggestion. :)

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 07/18/11 - 01:21 am
0
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Are we witnessing a local

Are we witnessing a local application of George Kennan's "containment policy" foisted upon Ronnie and his people by an extreme man-/womanpower shortfall? I agreed with my wife's suggestion that we relocate from Forrest Hills to CC after the sounds of gunshots became familiar weekend fare and after two neighbors were arrested on separate murder charges in the same week. A relative's recent relocation from Tuxedo Park to West Augusta was founded upon similar concerns about the direction of the entire Highland Park area and the civility of an increasing number of its juvenile residents.

But, lo, why should Augustans concern ourselves with peaceful neighborhoods when Billy, Cal, Jacoby and "Boardman" are obsessed with the more-important idea of a ball park on steroids near BM's riverfront hospitality holdings? By the way, are there any plans to name said park for Raphael Palmero or Roger Clemens?

southern2
6004
Points
southern2 07/18/11 - 04:50 am
0
0
Had to leave our beloved home

Had to leave our beloved home on the South side of Richmond County because of repeated break ins. Moved to the West side 10 years ago and felt safe until we experienced our first break in this year. Sad to experience the same pattern of degradation here that we saw in South Augusta.

seenitB4
85152
Points
seenitB4 07/18/11 - 05:32 am
0
0
WHAT...more breakins....do I

WHAT...more breakins....do I need glasses again...Richmond county HAS BREAK-INS----now you KNOW the stats won't show this crap...
& everyone knows we can stop this with a ballpark & trolly system....
Start marching folks---get on Broad st.with your signs.....will someone with some sense run for office ...please...

seenitB4
85152
Points
seenitB4 07/18/11 - 05:33 am
0
0
Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 07/18/11 - 06:22 am
0
0
(S)eenitB4, Politicos tend to

(S)eenitB4,

Politicos tend to fear him who buys ink by the barrel and him who can take away one's liberty and property.

seenitB4
85152
Points
seenitB4 07/18/11 - 06:30 am
0
0
southern2.....Have you ever

southern2.....Have you ever noticed that when crime is rampant-unchecked it seems to overflow into the next county----it happens in north Atlanta too... the very reason we fought back with calls-letters-demanding MORE police checking the neighborhoods--we pay extra for extra patrol in our area...it is worth it!
Columbia county will get the overflow---just a matter of time.

seenitB4
85152
Points
seenitB4 07/18/11 - 06:35 am
0
0
aaah....spinks..... And buy

aaah....spinks.....
And buy paper by the ton----:)

Something tells me "thisperson" would benefit greatly if the crime element
is crushed---it could be a win-win for all....some people with big pocketbooks also can have big hearts...(I have actually seen it B4):o)

seenitB4
85152
Points
seenitB4 07/18/11 - 07:46 am
0
0
I could write a book about

I could write a book about this area...I lived off Wheeless for years in the 60s-70s-80s.....beautiful yards-homes-wellkept & little crime....my daughters walked up-down Wheeless w/o a problem......sooo what changed there.....when we can solve this problem...we might have a good area again..one day....people are people, right?
Don't we all want a clean-safe neighborhood?

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 07/18/11 - 08:02 am
0
0
(S)eenitB4, You're right:

(S)eenitB4,

You're right: Billy would benefit. Reducing crime would increase long-term property values for almost everyone else, too. But knowledge of the existence crime problems reduces these same property values in the short-run. There would be a lot of money to be made if high-crime and -crime-anxiety areas were rendered peaceful; for example, the Riverwalk, Harrisburg. But that's long-term; politicians are notoriously myopic visionaries. Billy doesn't want any declines in the values of his properties even if the declines are short-term. Emergents from bankruptcy typically face capital problems. Declines in his properties' values would decrease his capital position.

Patty-P
3516
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Patty-P 07/18/11 - 08:17 am
0
0
I was hoping Countyman

I was hoping Countyman would've posted on this one.

chadwick323i
48
Points
chadwick323i 07/18/11 - 08:39 am
0
0
Oh Countyman is on vacation

Oh Countyman is on vacation in Mexico; aparrently its safer there than in Augusta.

Lori Davis
905
Points
Lori Davis 07/18/11 - 08:45 am
0
0
Lawless people end up in

Lawless people end up in lawless counties. Last year during the Mayoral campaign I wrote our Mayor personally about a situation in my neighborhood. A woman who had worked for the Mayor's family came to me for help concerning a drug dealer living next door to her who was wreaking havoc on an entire block. I was very familiar with the house that rents for $1080 in Harrisburg, as many of our residents had protested the owner who will not help with the situation. I encouraged the woman to contact the Mayor herself since she had worked for the family. She said,"No way." With this I wrote the Mayor an email explaining the situation and asking him to use the part of his job description that states,"The Mayor shall be the Chief Executive Officer of Augusta Richmond County. It shall be his duty to see that the laws and codes of Augusta Richmond County are put in full force." I got zero response. The hard working woman who came to me has left the neighborhood. I could not help her. After looking at the arrest record of the drug dealer, I could not believe that he has never been to prison. He's been arrested for possession of cocaine and trafficking cocaine, among other felony arrests. He was released from jail one time because he did not get a speedy trial (within 90 days). When we can not get help from our elected officials, we are doomed as a city. I did not bring any of this out during the campaign because I did not want to run a dirty campaign of any type. It's time that the truth were known. We need new leaders. Not a new baseball stadium. We need justice for the few hard working citizens left in Richmond County. We need leaders who are willing to clean up the mess in Augusta that has languished for decades. Augusta is reaping what it has sown and now our leaders don't know what to do except say that we can't be everywhere and we don't have enough money. I have pointed out a nest that could be eradicated. This is not a random act. It has been going on for over three years. Who is brave enough to put a stop to it?

hounddog
0
Points
hounddog 07/18/11 - 08:55 am
0
0
Things are NOT GOING to get
Unpublished

Things are NOT GOING to get any better until leaders in the black communities and the black churches address what they have created. They have taught young blacks for the last 30 to 40 years that nothing is their fault that it is the all white man’s fault. Black are now into the 2nd & 3rd generation with the entitlement mentality. The democrats and black leaders have destroyed the black families with the entitlement programs and it is only getting worse.

seenitB4
85152
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seenitB4 07/18/11 - 09:07 am
0
0
I agree spinks...all 3 times

I agree spinks...all 3 times you said it...HA

Lori....your words are perfect for this time in Augusta...
"Who is brave enough to put a stop to it"....You hit the nail...on the
head..

Years ago there was a stake out program in Richmond county..the RCSD stationed police officers behind 1 way mirrors in the high-crime areas...some punks were shot---guess what, IT WORKED.....of course some city leaders caused an uproar & said only certain groups were targeted...not true.....this could work again but it would take guts & a lot of working together...RCSD-mayor-city leaders-money people-judges--etc. would all have to be on the same page.......if this doesn't happen I would say work like crazy to change the leadership in Augusta because they don't give a rats behind about the problems!!!

happychimer
16818
Points
happychimer 07/18/11 - 09:22 am
0
0
Lori if you had told that

Lori if you had told that info in the election, I would not have thought you were running a dirty campaign. You would have been telling the truth. You still got my vote.

Lori Davis
905
Points
Lori Davis 07/18/11 - 09:26 am
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0
Thanks happychimer. I felt

Thanks happychimer. I felt like everything I said and did was regulated by the press. I don't imagine that the AC would have entertained the story even if I had told it. Guess I could have called a press conference, but so much was new to me at the time. I really don't care that much for the spotlight. I just want to get things done. I want all that is illegal, handled.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 07/18/11 - 09:28 am
0
0
PattyP, you are 100% right

PattyP, you are 100% right about lack of punishments and repeat offenders. Although we need more jail space at this time, our judges continue to put violent criminals back onto the streets, especially juveniles.

That being said, you can’t take away the following from Law Enforcement as the Richmond County Commission has and expect to increase or even maintain a certain level of protection. If it weren’t for businesses hiring special duty deputies when they are not on shift, this county would be woefully further undermanned.

1. A reduction in 40 deputies over the past few years.
2. Furloughs for all current deputies equating to the reduction of an additional 16 deputies for the past two years not to include the 40 reduced positions.
3. Additional budget cuts to the Sheriff’s Office of almost $1,000,000.00 this year which has greatly cut into the needs of equipment and training.
4. Pay cuts the past two years for deputies with increases in insurance expense – This is certainly a MAJOR morale killer.
5. Increase in call volume due to reduction in force and furlough days – so more work for less money in a department that already answers more calls per deputy that any other nearby agency.

Our commission is more worried about maintaining a county golf course (COMPLETE WASTE OF ALMOST $1,000,000.00 PER YEAR) along with further waste on trolley studies, twice a week trash service, trying to build stadiums, etc.

We must have someone answer the needs of the Sheriff and the community.

seenitB4
85152
Points
seenitB4 07/18/11 - 09:29 am
0
0
Run again lori.....my kin

Run again lori.....my kin would vote for you...I've got a "bunch" of kinfolks!

Lori Davis
905
Points
Lori Davis 07/18/11 - 09:32 am
0
0
Asitisinaugusta, If you

Asitisinaugusta, If you remember, the Sheriff said that the million dollar cut would not affect him. Makes one wonder what that million was used for. SeenitB4, It would take a lot to get me to run again, but thanks for the vote of confidence!

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 07/18/11 - 09:59 am
0
0
asitis....WHY are judges

asitis....WHY are judges releasing repeat offenders over and over again. WHY? How does one have the opportunity to rob and burglarize 22 times and serve no time? Am I in the wrong line of business?

AutumnLeaves
6998
Points
AutumnLeaves 07/18/11 - 09:55 am
0
0
Where exactly is Norton

Where exactly is Norton Acres? I lived in the Deans Bridge/Gordon Hwy/Bobby JonesWheeless Road/Lumpkin road area all but 8 years of my life and I am not familiar with that subdivision. Anyone know a landmark or two next to it that I might recognize? A lot of the subdivision signs have been destroyed by accidents over the years. I saw the car speeding that destroyed the remaining sign for Brookwood, for instance. (Off Wheeless Road).

seenitB4
85152
Points
seenitB4 07/18/11 - 10:01 am
0
0
AL...Lee st. is right down

AL...Lee st. is right down from Wheeless school....close to Ruby dr.---I didn't recognize the name norton acres either...but the map shows the area around the school.

seenitB4
85152
Points
seenitB4 07/18/11 - 10:04 am
0
0
Little Lamb
45276
Points
Little Lamb 07/18/11 - 10:20 am
0
0
Patty-P wrote: WHY are the

Patty-P wrote:

WHY are the judges releasing repeat offenders over and over again?

First of all, it is not the judges releasing the offenders. It is the Pardons & Parole Board. But the Pardons & Parole Board's hands are tied. A federal court ruled that Georgia's prisons are overcrowded and the State of Georgia was ordered not to exceed a certain number of prisoners until they expand prison capacity. Therefore, whenever a judge sentences a new criminal to prison, the Pardons & Parold Board must release someone to make room for the new one.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 07/18/11 - 10:23 am
0
0
Little Lamb...is this the

Little Lamb...is this the same excuse for juveniles?

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