Originally created 01/24/97

Gunfire common in high-crime complex



Parker Wear, 77, was sitting on his bed Jan. 16 when a barrage of bullets flew past his face and drilled holes in several walls of his apartment.

Intermittent bursts of gunfire have been sending Veronica Moody, 27, and her two children into a state of panic as they fall to the floor huddling together.

Residents at River Glen Apartments, at East Boundary and Telfair streets, have gotten used to the sound of gunshots in recent years. But lately the problem has gotten worse, property managers say.

Around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, dozens of children played in the streets of the 200-unit complex. Just five hours before, loud pops of gunfire had rang out, sending people in the complex scattering. Police responded, but nothing was found. Property managers fear their luck might run out and some bystanders will be hurt.

"I hear shots almost every day ... it doesn't matter if it's day or night," Mr. Wear said Thursday.

"I'm glad the night they shot in here my grandchildren weren't here," he said, pointing out bullet holes in his bedroom door, a hall closet and a second bedroom wall.

Things have gotten so bad that property managers say they don't know what to do.

Managers say they have tried to make the complex safer by having an off-duty Richmond County deputy work 80 hours a month, evicting residents who cause trouble, and writing to Sheriff Charles Webster.

In one letter, dated Nov. 22, regional property manager Charlie Henley asked for a greater police presence in the complex.

"Drug dealers frequent the neighborhood and apartment complex and are becoming bolder," the letter said. "They were threatening River Glen staff members in retaliation for their aggressive management," the letter says.

Mr. Henley said he realizes the department has a shortage of officers, but River Glen and the surrounding community need a joint effort with police and residents to make things safer.

"We evicted 20 people last year who were causing many of the problems," he said.

But documenting incidents in order to evict people is not easy, he said.

Sheriff Webster said he's aware of the problem at River Glen and other areas like it. But the police cannot do much more with a shortage of manpower. As in the past, he plans to ask for more officers - 68 this time - from county commissioners. And he has been trying to get a squad of Georgia State Patrol officers to staff state highways to free more of his deputies for high-crime areas.

The department has sent in its 12-member crime suppression team to River Glen at least four times, for four or five days at a time. The team of officers is placed in high-crime areas. But once the officers leave, the trouble starts again, Chief Deputy Ronald Strength said.

"River Glen is one of many low-income, high-crime areas that have problems similar to this. And River Glen is not the worst of the group," Chief Deputy Strength said. "The area is not being neglected. But it's not getting the attention we'd like to give it because of a shortage of manpower."