Harrisburg residents sign solidarity pledge in fight against crime

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If the squeaky wheel gets the oil, some Harrisburg residents are working to make the distressed neighborhood the squeakiest in Augusta when it comes to crime reports.

Activists and church leaders are circulating a petition asking everyone to immediately report anything suspicious and each and every violation of law to the Richmond County Sheriff's Office -- right down to violations of the city's obscene language and loitering ordinances.

H. Kelly McKnight, the pastor of Bible Deliverance Temple, has been taking the "Harrisburg Community Declaration of Solidarity Against Crime" door-to-door in the neighborhood, asking residents to sign a pledge to "exercise vigilance, not vigilantism" and "stand united, unafraid, neighbors helping neighbors, determined to take back our community from those who would divide us through illegal activities."

"I think that this will get more people involved and aware," the Rev. McKnight said.

Being circulated with the petition are flyers with excerpts from the city's ordinances against lewdness, indecent exposure, obscene language, loitering and loafing. There's also a list of suspicious things to report, such as the sound of breaking glass, screaming, apparent business transactions being conducted from a vehicle and persons loitering around schools and parks. Those who sign pledge to dial 911 only in the event of an emergency, and the nonemergency dispatch line -- (706) 821-1080 -- otherwise.

"Our goal is to have everybody within the bounds of Harrisburg read it, or have it read to them," said Butch Palmer, the founder of HONGKONG -- Harrisburg Organization Networking for Gentrification to Keep Our Neighbor from becoming a Ghetto -- and a Harrisburg-West End Neighborhood Association board of directors member. "To clean up the neighborhood, we have to set a standard, because this behavior is not normal to a neighborhood that is predominantly homeowner-occupied."

Sheriff Ronnie Strength said he welcomes the eyes on the ground, and if summoned, a deputy will respond. But because manpower is limited, if his department were to be overwhelmed with calls from Harrisburg, at some point they would have to be prioritized. For example, deputies would head to a burglary in progress faster than they'd check out a report of a teenager wearing trousers below his buttocks, the sheriff said.

"We're going to do everything we can to help the good folks in Harrisburg," he said.

IN ANOTHER MEASURE being taken to clean up the neighborhood, the group that staged the Fourth of July protest march against absentee landlords and drug peddlers is planning a second demonstration not in the streets of Harrisburg, but outside a landlord's house in the upscale Forest Hills subdivision.

A dozen residents met at march organizer Lori Davis' home Tuesday night and resolved to picket in front of the Lake Forest Drive residence of John B. Weigle Jr., on Aug. 8 at 10 a.m.

Mr. Weigle, who sells insurance for Dawson Taylor & Co. on Wheeler Road, owns 223 Eve St., one of three properties targeted as a "nuisance" during the July 4 march. He did not respond to voice messages seeking comment Wednesday, and efforts to reach him earlier this month resulted in a missed phone call.

Mrs. Davis, vice president of the neighborhood association, said she has received more than 20 complaints about 223 Eve St., from neighbors during the past year and a half. According to the reports, an assortment of men who don't appear to live there lounge on the porch and in the front yard day and night, sometimes walking to the corner of Ellis and Eve streets to make cell phone calls. Cars with out-of-county and out-of-state license plates come and go, and the property itself is an eyesore, Mrs. Davis said.

"These are signs -- signs -- of houses that deal drugs," she said.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

HELP FOR HARRISBURG

Some Harrisburg leaders have expressed outrage that their city commissioner, Betty Beard, is working to steer millions of dollars to Bethlehem and Laney-Walker in tandem with the TEE center project, but not to their neighborhood.

Last week the city's Housing and Community Development Department applied for $50 million in stimulus funds through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Neighborhood Stabilization Program. If the full amount is awarded, $4.7 million would go toward revitalizing Harrisburg, according to department director Chester Wheeler. Goshen, downtown and Marion Homes would also benefit.

When ratification of the already-filed application came up at Tuesday's commission meeting, Ms. Beard rebuked City Administrator Fred Russell because she and other commissioners weren't consulted beforehand. Mr. Russell said he and Mr. Wheeler were trying to make the July 17 application deadline while lining up developers with backing from lending institutions, and had the process been held up Augusta wouldn't be in the running for the funds at all.

The commission voted 6-3 (Joe Bowles, Jerry Brigham and Joe Jackson opposed and J.R. Hatney absent) to send the application matter to its Administrative Services committee. The commission also voted Tuesday to grant a request for $25,000 in start-up funds for Good Neighbor Ministries' Harrisburg Family Healthcare Clinic, to be located at the corner of Crawford Avenue and Hicks Street.

Comments (18) Add comment
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HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 07/23/09 - 01:40 am
0
0
I am about tired of hearing

I am about tired of hearing about Harrisburg. It's not the only slum in Augusta, you know.

justus4
103
Points
justus4 07/23/09 - 04:19 am
0
0
Ol' Fred, an unelected
Unpublished

Ol' Fred, an unelected individual, has more moves than a barrel of snakes, when it comes to "shafting" the minority commissioners. Beard is correct with her concerns that they were not informed, but a pattern has developed with this guy. He is making critical financial decisions about governmental contracts and federal grants without being elected, which violates the spirit of Democracy. His next performance evaluation must address his inability to follow instructions and overreaching his authority.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 07/23/09 - 05:48 am
0
0
HillGuy, better to hear about

HillGuy, better to hear about this than say, another body being found in the canal, or another pizza guy or pregnant woman being robbed. If other residents in other "slums" (Bethlehem, ahem) want to be proactive and change their neighborhood for the better, I'm sure they'd get plenty of coverage. The only other blighted neighborhood I've heard thats working to clean up its image is Sand Hills.

joebowles
104
Points
joebowles 07/23/09 - 07:32 am
0
0
Justus, Commissioners aren't

Justus, Commissioners aren't elected to be employees, we are elected to set policy. Are you mad because your commissioner couldn't bring all the pork of the stimulus to your district??? Why in the world should a commissioner be consulted other than so they could get more bacon for pet projects?

stovall st
0
Points
stovall st 07/23/09 - 08:36 am
0
0
At least butch is tryin to do

At least butch is tryin to do something about the dope dealers & scum bags in his turf. thers two type's of people in the world.those that watch thing's happen and then ther's the one's that make thing's happen..You go butch. that's the butch i know..

emergencyfan
0
Points
emergencyfan 07/23/09 - 08:44 am
0
0
I applaud anyone who's

I applaud anyone who's willing put forth the time and effort to make their community better rather than just sitting around expecting other people to do it for them. You go "Harrisburg Community Declaration of Solidarity Against Crime!"

stovall st
0
Points
stovall st 07/23/09 - 09:03 am
0
0
hey tcdse,you must be talkin

hey tcdse,you must be talkin about my short cutsssss, duh! what rock did you crawl out from under?

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 07/23/09 - 09:52 am
0
0
Mr. Weigle can help the

Mr. Weigle can help the condition of the house but he can not control who visits 223 Eve St. Only the person living in the house can do that. That is the person the protesters should be seeing. Why would Mr. Weigle waste money to repair a house only to see it ransacked again by the people that live there? The protester walking in the picture with the helmet on is also one to be talking. Her son runs from the law, is a drunk, has several children that he does not take care of, will not work a steady job, is arrogant and is in constant trouble with the police. She has her hands full but enables him. She however is a decent person just caught in a bad situation. I do praise her for her willingness to stand up but she needs to do some homework with her son first.

SnowBallCity
2
Points
SnowBallCity 07/23/09 - 10:50 am
0
0
The problems in Horrisburg

The problems in Horrisburg have been there for at least the last 20 years I've known the area. There was drug and prostitute activity in the '90s and probably before. I'm not sure why it has become an issue now. Other areas in Augusta have been worse off for just as long.

irish62009
0
Points
irish62009 07/23/09 - 11:57 am
0
0
Mr.or Ms.tcdse,it's a fact

Mr.or Ms.tcdse,it's a fact that most serial killers have way above average IQs would you rather hang with one or two of them because they use good grammer.

Frank I
1191
Points
Frank I 07/23/09 - 12:54 pm
0
0
WW1949, the reason to protest

WW1949, the reason to protest at Mr. Weigle's address is he continues to allow a person that would tolerate such dealings. If he's concerned about wasting money to repair a house only to see it ransacked again by the people that live there, he should evict the current tenants and find new ones. Perhaps a little more stringency on checking into your tenants..

The Ode
2
Points
The Ode 07/23/09 - 01:20 pm
0
0
Kudos to these Harrisburg

Kudos to these Harrisburg residents but they really need to use some vigilantism towards these thugs and direct their protests to the local, state, and federal governments who allow, encourage, and subsidize this type of lawlessness and behavior with entitlements for everything under the sun.

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 07/23/09 - 01:49 pm
0
0
Just for the record it's

Just for the record it's grammar, not grammer. I wouldn't want to be a landlord anywhere. I saw what tenants and their co-dependents did to a house in 30906. They were not, at least at first, section 8's either. The problems included drugs, alcohol, domestic issues, verbal abuse and harassment, thieving, solicitation (even of retired neighbors!) and unusual "traffic". They tore that house up before they left. The new owner showed me the inside of it and it was horrific, shin deep in trash and worse. The only time I had seen the inside of that house before was for a party for their children and it was neat as a pin that day. I don't know how in the world it could get from A-Z, unless they purposely trashed it with the help of a large group of their "friends".

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 07/23/09 - 01:53 pm
0
0
I've said this before: Please

I've said this before: Please be careful. People that will vandalize a house, people that will traffic drugs, people that will verbally abuse you and each other, will also lie and get their friends (or co-dependents) to lie for them, too. You could have the best intentions in the world, and end up being the one in trouble because of other people's lies. And no amount of videotape or recordings can help you until you get the chance for the authorities to view it or read it. That could take years if ever.

Brad Owens
4583
Points
Brad Owens 07/23/09 - 03:02 pm
0
0
Good for them. Organize

Good for them. Organize organize organize! Share intelligence, communicate, document, and report. If I was home I would help all I could.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 07/23/09 - 03:29 pm
0
0
Excellent - Organize, Get the

Excellent - Organize, Get the Police involved, Get the press involved and keep it all out in the open. More patrol cars, cameras, neighbors out doing something will at least clean up your area - probably move them elsewhere but if all neighborhoods actually cared and got involved we could get rid of a lot of the thugs and do nothings in this area.

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 07/23/09 - 06:14 pm
0
0
Why do they not target that

Why do they not target that gay bar in the area? It has a problem with prostitution around it, drunks leaving and causing noise late at night, and drugs.. but they don't seem to target it. Just why is that, Butch??

HillGuy
7
Points
HillGuy 07/23/09 - 07:53 pm
0
0
Harrisburg has been a slum

Harrisburg has been a slum since atleast the late 1960s.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 07/24/09 - 05:28 am
0
0
YOU are the one who has a

YOU are the one who has a problem with it HillGuy, why don't YOU go out and picket? Too busy sipping mojitos on your porch eh? rockin out to Prince?

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