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Harrisburg group tries to fight crime by fixing houses

Residents are on lookout for code violations

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A local group is taking a unique approach to crime in Harrisburg community.

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Harrisburg resident Phil Williams drives around in his truck with a dashboard camera to check on areas that he knows are a problem in the community.  MIKE ADAMS/SPECIAL
MIKE ADAMS/SPECIAL
Harrisburg resident Phil Williams drives around in his truck with a dashboard camera to check on areas that he knows are a problem in the community.


CSRA Cares – Harris­burg residents trying to combat drugs, violence and other problems in its neighborhood – is attacking the problems through the Richmond County License and Inspection Department instead of traditional law enforcement.

“We work closely with them to try and get these properties cleaned up,” Har­ris­burg activist Lori Davis said.

The small group of activists – consisting mainly of Davis, Butch Palmer, Woody Merry and Phil Williams – patrols the neighborhood periodically to keep an eye on problem areas. Davis said the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t patrol the neighborhood as much as she would like.

Williams said he takes his truck out with a dashboard camera and checks on areas he knows are a problem.

One night, Williams and Palmer noticed what looked like a drug deal and approached the lookout. The lookout yelled to people in the house, which resulted in shaken nerves but also made Williams more determined to continue his efforts.

“I don’t know if our presence really works,” he said. “But I think it keeps them on their toes. They don’t like to be on camera.”

Because there are so few residents to do patrol, Davis said, the group also takes note of structure code violations.

“We have had lots of success with the License and Inspection Department,” she said.

Harrisburg has many vacant and dilapidated structures. Renters are the biggest problem, Davis said. Residents who own their homes tend to keep them up, but only 15 to 20 percent of the homes in Harrisburg are occupied by their owners, according to Keith Petty, of the License and Inspection Department.

The rental properties are rundown and often missing windows or even parts of ceilings or floors. When a rental property is not up to code, a process starts with License and Inspection to get the structure fixed.

Petty, who has worked with Harris­burg for about four years, said there are many reasons Harrisburg has become rundown, including the volatile housing market.

“Right now, some of these structures are more expensive to fix than the landlords are getting in rent,” he said. “The goal is to have most of the structures owner-occupied.”

Petty said the situation in Harris­burg can be fixed so long as residents start caring about their properties.

“If you put five to 10 grand into a property, you are going to be pickier about who goes in there,” he said. “Right now, it’s just about giving people a roof over their head.”

Petty thinks the neighborhood needs more than money to succeed. He said success would require everyone to help fix up the neighborhood.

If the houses and yards are clean, the criminal element tends to get nervous and clear out, he said.

“It’s also a coordination issue. If you could want to get the bad elements out of there, everyone has to cooperate,” he said. “But for now, it’s one house at a time.”

A large part of success in areas such as Harrisburg hinges on cooperation between residents and the government, Perry said. A block captain or community watch are also good ways for neighborhoods to take responsibility, he said.

Wilson and Petty recently went through an owner-occupied property that was missing all its windows, among other problems.

Wilson said the owner most likely did not have the money to bring the home up to code, so he and a group of residents and landlords are planning to fix it.

“We want to help where we can,” he said. “We all live here.”

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oneofthesane
2201
Points
oneofthesane 12/12/12 - 11:45 am
10
2
Pretty amazing and kudos! But
Unpublished

Pretty amazing and kudos! But criminals are like red ants and their hills.....you dont kill them, they just move. But must respect to someone who puts their life in danger for something they believe in.

kiwiinamerica
961
Points
kiwiinamerica 12/12/12 - 01:07 pm
1
0
Da shed......
Unpublished

OK, so what does "74" signify? In the infantile world of gangstas, I'm guessing it's a reference to letters of the alphabet, which would be "GD". I guess that means "Gangsta Disciples" or their wannabees.

They're a Chicago based gang founded by a guy called Larry Hoover, currently serving six life sentences at SuperMax in Colorado. Funnily enough, these cretins were in the news a day or two back when they threatened to kill rapper Rick Ross ( a fake gangsta) for mentioning their founder in one of his..er...."songs". There was a hilarious headline at "The Smoking Gun" yesterday about the whole thing...."Real Gangsters Threaten Life Of Fake Gangster".

MrMatthews
13
Points
MrMatthews 12/12/12 - 01:38 pm
0
1
Stop leaving food around and
Unpublished

Stop leaving food around and the ants will go away. End the handouts in this area and they will go elsewhere. Stop giving out unemployment, stop giving out food stamps, stop accepting housing assistance. They will either get jobs or leave.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 12/12/12 - 07:35 pm
9
2
It's sad that there is a

It's sad that there is a troll out there who would give a thumbs down to community effort to control crime.

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 12/12/12 - 07:54 pm
7
0
'The lookout yelled to people

'The lookout yelled to people in the house, which resulted in some shaken nerves, but also made Williams more determined to continue his efforts.'

Actually after thoroughly reading the article, this is a very unsafe way for them to try to handle the situation. It's one thing to be on the lookout and alert the proper authorities, but to try to confront hoodlums that way is wrong.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 12/12/12 - 08:12 pm
0
5
The assumed lookout would be

The assumed lookout would be the hoodlum patty p, not a member of the neighborhood watch

Conservative Man
5577
Points
Conservative Man 12/12/12 - 09:46 pm
3
2
Also.....

....The fact that the neighborhood watch HAS to put the lookouts on alert, as opposed to the cops, says much about the area....

Let's hope that the new sheriff will take note.....

HenryWalker3rd
2393
Points
HenryWalker3rd 12/13/12 - 04:33 am
3
3
One question.
Unpublished

Now is that a safe thing to do?

“Right now, it’s just about giving people a roof over their head.”

No it's more about that all mighty dollar.

seenitB4
93610
Points
seenitB4 12/13/12 - 06:54 am
3
0
Just thinking here

If Roundtree really wants to make a difference ...he would clean up Harrisburg right from the start of his term as Sheriff........show us whatcha can do Tree.....we will be watching..

Patty-P
3516
Points
Patty-P 12/13/12 - 07:20 am
4
2
omnomom....the fact that they

omnomom....the fact that they approached the person is my issue.

CobaltGeorge
170339
Points
CobaltGeorge 12/13/12 - 08:00 am
7
0
Patty-P

"It's sad that there is a troll out there who would give a thumbs down to community effort to control crime."

Think a minute, just what type of individual would be against anyone trying to stop crime?

Bulldog
1333
Points
Bulldog 12/13/12 - 09:29 am
3
0
Criminals depend on you

Most criminals depend on you to be afraid of them. When confronted most will run. However, you have to be prepared to deal with the fact that some will not... Public disapproval of undesirable activities will exert pressure on them to move to another area which is more accepting of their culture. This is a satistfying, if short term solution to an immediate problem in a number of our urban neighborhoods.

catawba7
319
Points
catawba7 12/13/12 - 10:35 am
6
0
THIS IS HOW THE CITY ACQUIRES AREAS THEY WANT

When you see an area left to high crime, be sure the city of Augusta has it's eye on your land. This is how they operate, let and area deteriorate, don't place a police presence in the area and don't enforce laws on the books to make landowners clean up their land or remove vacant houses. Then you can say you'll help out by buying up the land for peanuts and before you know it a "retention" pond is sitting on land your parents worked their whole lives to own for "YOU". Augusta is the city of division and greed. I applaud the men who are trying to clean up Harrisburg, but you better watch the City government. Also, beware of renters coming into your area, renters if not the right people can destroy a neighborhood...Good Luck Harrisburg, my prayers are with you.

Bulldog
1333
Points
Bulldog 12/13/12 - 10:42 am
4
0
Smart buyers

Harrisburg has some tremendous real estate bargins. For those with a "this old house" talent, it can be a gold mine. It does however require a bit of vision...

Lori Davis
968
Points
Lori Davis 12/13/12 - 12:06 pm
1
0
Catawba7 you are so correct

Catawba7 you are so correct and we know it. We have been fighting a losing battle for 5 years without help from our local officials or proper law enforcement. There is a reason for this. We get a news article about our efforts every now and then which we certainly appreciate! At least we keep our efforts in the news. Our last Commissioner did zero to help us even though he made many promises. Harrisburg falls under the DDA and we have received zero funding even though we have asked. Put all of these folks together who are ignoring us, look at who they answer to, and the picture becomes very clear. What a shame. I for one believe that Dr. Ricardo Aziz sees what Harrisburg could become. What a wonderful area for medical students and young couples if planned properly. I also know that those of us who have been fighting this battle will be reaching out to those who are not in the immediate power structure of Augusta, but have power of their own to make things happen. We want Harrisburg to go OUR way and not the way of the same group of folks who make all of the money in Augusta. Stay tuned...And for the record. Keith Petty, not Perry, is an excellent code enforcement officer. Augusta needs ten more just like him to clean up the mess that has been allowed over the last thirty years. Also Phil Williams, not Wilson, is the President of the Harrisburg Association and is a wonderful addition to this neighborhood and it's band of Urban Pioneers.

soapy_725
43949
Points
soapy_725 12/13/12 - 12:08 pm
0
0
Super catawba !!!!!!! Who would want to invest in......
Unpublished

Harrisburg 2013? Return on Investment has to be very low. The land, now that is a different animal. Land is a finite quantity. countyman would invest his money? Someone with federal grant money? The county government is the logical best answer. Take this analogy to other areas of the county. It even fits with the "lack of maintenance" of the Golf & Gardens. Cherry Hill? Gordon Hwy?

soapy_725
43949
Points
soapy_725 12/13/12 - 12:12 pm
0
0
Four individuals who care......
Unpublished

194,000 who do not care because it is not next door to their house. This is why "evil survives and thrives" in ARC. How do you make the roaches feel unwanted? Shine a light on their party? Then where do they go?

oneofthesane
2201
Points
oneofthesane 12/13/12 - 04:37 pm
0
0
Patty-P
Unpublished

Dont look at thumbs down as a negative thing. I look at it like "made somebody think and they didn't like to do that." :) So just add that thumb(s) down to the thumbs up and it is all the same.

daviddunagan
343
Points
daviddunagan 12/13/12 - 09:01 pm
0
0
Citizens on Patrol (C.O.P.)

Waynesboro does it with success. Sheriff Elect Roundtree- start it up and we will join. Readers- Google it for more info. DD

leebraxjr
272
Points
leebraxjr 12/15/12 - 07:31 pm
0
0
Controlling Crime

Many people will disagree with me about what I am about to say.
The best way to kill any criminal eliment is not to push them into another bad neighborhood, but control there drifting path. If you block off the front and sides so they do not know what is ahead or on sides, there is only so far they can go.
You ask how when there are connections outside of where they are? There is something called Marshall Law, it can be undeclared and giving new name. The point is if you know the problem, use the same methods they use for information. I understand not everyone plays Chess, but most people like puzzles. Solve It.

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