The Richmond Hill emergency response area – bordered by Deans Bridge Road on the west, Gordon Highway on the north, Peach Orchard Road on the east and Bobby Jones Expressway on the south – had the highest number of reported crimes tracked by The Augusta Chronicle in the past year.
Residents and businesses in Richmond Hill reported 573 incidents: assaults, burglaries, drugs, property damage, robberies, reckless conduct, terroristic threats, arson, kidnapping and one homicide.
Most of the incidents reported between Dec. 1, 2011, and Dec. 1 – 329 – were for simple battery. Burglaries accounted for 123 of the reports; robberies accounted for 28.
Earl Driggers, who owns AA Pawn on Peach Orchard Road and A-1 Jewelry and Pawn on Deans Bridge Road, said crime is a problem.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been broken into,” he said.
When Driggers opened AA Pawn about four years ago, attempted break-ins were constant, he said. Twice someone attempted to drive through the front door, most recently on Jan. 29. Luckily, nothing has been stolen. Typically, he said, his alarms send them running.
Driggers later added a dog to his crime-prevention strategy, which he said has greatly curtailed break-ins.
“I went and bought me the baddest dog I could find,” he said of the Rottweiler that patrols the back of the building when he’s gone.
He said the break-in attempts are a headache and costly but that he cares too much about the community and the area to give up without a fight.
“The south side has been very beneficial to me, and I’m not about to abandon them,” Driggers said.
Patrick Barnwell, the owner of Patrick’s Custom Cycle Exchange on Deans Bridge Road, said proprietors must tightly secure their businesses.
“You can’t make it easy on them,” he said of possible burglars.
Barnwell said he uses cameras, alarms and signs to deter crime at the business he has owned for 10 years. His business was hit in September, but he said it was the work of amateurs and a rare thing for him to see. The suspects caused several hundred dollars
in damage to the store trying to get in, but nothing was taken.
“Knock on wood, I’ve only gotten one hit in 10 years,” Barnwell said.
Richmond County sheriff’s Deputy Paul Kervin, who works one of several beats in the Richmond Hill emergency response area, said a few bad apples have given the area a bad name.
“South Augusta has a base of good people who live there and are upstanding citizens,” Kervin said. “Then you have other people who live there and don’t work and will do anything for an extra dollar.”
Of the county’s 30 homicides this year, one occurred within the Richmond Hill area. Police say Keya Mitchell, 34, was shot by her husband, Harvey Mitchell, 31, during a domestic dispute at their apartment in the 500 block of Richmond Hill Road.
Apartments in that block accounted for 73 reported incidents. Providence Place apartments in the 2500 block of Richmond Hill Road accounted for 39. The two complexes accounted for a quarter of all crimes in the Richmond Hill emergency response area in the period analyzed.
Capt. Scott Peebles said high concentrations of residents, especially at apartment complexes, have more problems.
“It doesn’t surprise me at all that (the area) has a high call volume,” he said. “It’s very heavily populated.”
Peebles said the Richmond Hill response area encompasses a large portion of the economic center of south Augusta.
Because of the high call volume, Kervin said he often has to neglect some of his other duties to respond to calls on his beat, which falls between Peach Orchard Road, Gordon Highway and Deans Bridge Road.
A good amount of time is spent at the complexes. When he’s not answering calls, he’s there to be a deterrent.
“Most people welcome us with open arms,” Kervin said.
Driggers said he encourages people to keep believing in the area.
“Sooner or later the positives will outweigh the negatives,” he said.