Gordon Highway area, Harrisburg tops in crime

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All seemed normal when Deputy Dan Ferrel drove through the 1600 block of Gordon Highway on a recent weekday.

On one side of the road, Southgate Plaza looked quiet. On the other side of the eight lanes, a series of restaurants and small businesses appeared to have the usual customers.

In all, nothing unusual.

Unfortunately, that's not always the case in an area that last year had the highest number of robberies per block in Richmond County, according to 2008 crime data provided by the Richmond County Sheriff's Office and compiled by The Augusta Chronicle .

"Used to, we had no problems on the 1600 block of Gordon Highway," said Lt. Scott Gay, who supervises the sheriff's crime suppression team. "It was in the last 10 years the criminal activity has increased."

There were 23 incidents in which victims claimed to have been robbed in this area near one of Augusta's busiest roads. Ten reported attacks involved everything from broken bottles to handguns. Three were sexual assaults.

Across town, the crime numbers also looked bad but less concentrated in the Harrisburg community, the aging mill section of Augusta that saw more than its share of violence last year, including three homicides -- two within a block of each other.

A map by The Chronicle highlighting violent crimes that police consider the most dangerous shows Richmond County contains several areas and streets where trouble is prevalent.

However, multiple interviews with road deputies and sheriff's investigators indicate the small stretch of Gordon Highway's 1600 block and the broader Harrisburg community are two general areas that tax law enforcement resources and attention.

"We put a lot of resources over there (Gordon Highway) but we have other areas of concern too," said Lt. Gay. His deputies are responsible for increasing the police presence in neighborhoods when the crime activity drastically increases. "Between there and Harrisburg, they keep us pretty busy."

Speaking from his desk in the sheriff's office substation behind Southgate Plaza, Lt. Gay said everyone would be happy if Augusta didn't have any crime. On the other hand, he said, it makes lawbreaking easier to confront when you know it's likely to be concentrated in certain areas of town.

"In my opinion I think there are always going to be areas that are more conducive for the criminal element or for criminal behavior," he said. "So once you move them out of one place, they're going to move to another. I think that them being in a known criminal area is better off for us keeping tabs on them."

Lt. Gay and other law enforcement officers blame the higher crime numbers along that part of Gordon Highway on a number of older motels that attract customers with a tendency toward trouble.

Messages seeking comment from the owner of the Augusta Super Inn at 1602 Gordon Highway and the manager for Budget Inn at 1616 Gordon Highway were not returned as of Friday.

People were much more likely to talk in Harrisburg, a broader neighborhood that has its crime problems, but also has residents with longer and stronger ties to their community, who want to see things improve.

"It was a very good neighborhood," said H.K. McKnight, the founder of the Bible Deliverance Temple at the corner of Eve and Fenwick streets. "People had lived here all of their lives."

Dr. McKnight said his church's activity center gives the youth a place to go after school, but they work with children only up to age 12.

He hopes to reinstitute a Friday night entertainment program in the near future.

Dr. McKnight, who established the church in 1963, said he blames the neighborhood's problems on low-rent landlords who allow drug users and prostitutes to fill their properties.

Others see an advantage in keeping young people busy.

"I think there needs to be something for the kids to do," said a man who would only identify himself as Freeman, a barber at Johnson's Beauty and Barber Shop on Eve Street. "There are lots of abandoned houses around here and the kids just hang around."

He said Harrisburg has its problems but it is no worse than other pockets of Augusta.

He said he regularly cut the hair of 21-year-old Daniel McGee, who was shot dead on nearby Starnes Street in December, in addition to one of the men suspected of shooting him.

"I've seen them pass in here before," he said. "It kind of shocked me when I heard it happened."

Having attended school with many in the area, he said he thinks the problems stem from young people with nothing better to do than let small grudges escalate into violence.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.


Comments (36) Add comment
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SargentMidTown
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SargentMidTown 03/22/09 - 02:19 am
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SargentMidTown
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SargentMidTown 03/22/09 - 02:27 am
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Cheap hotels on Gordon

Cheap hotels on Gordon Highway and low rent in Harrisburg. Crime is greater the lower the class. Only through gentrification can crime be reduced. Most people who rent in Harrisburg move within a two year peorid so there are really very few people that gentrification in Harrisburg would displace. 30% of the people in Harrisburg are criminal and they need to go! http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/memphis-crime

jajo1012
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jajo1012 03/22/09 - 03:02 am
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Finally, one of the most

Finally, one of the most useful and interesting pieces the Chronicle has put out in awhile.

My_2nd
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My_2nd 03/22/09 - 06:33 am
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and that's just violent

and that's just violent crimes. the map would be totally covered if property crimes were included.

sprintman
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sprintman 03/22/09 - 09:32 am
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regiznaws is it really

regiznaws is it really useful. When it only shows richmond. Where are aiken, columbia, mcduffie, burke, and edgefield.

GuyIncognito
1
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GuyIncognito 03/22/09 - 10:08 am
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What's the white pin at Laney

What's the white pin at Laney Walker and 12th?

beachbum1776
2
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beachbum1776 03/22/09 - 10:13 am
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Some [filtered word] lookin' for

Some [filtered word] lookin' for crack!

WW1949
19
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WW1949 03/22/09 - 10:14 am
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As the demigraphics of

As the demigraphics of Harrisburg change with the people in the lower sections of Augusta moving there so does the crime rate. Not withstanding that people in lower class areas call the police for everything. They just do not know any better. And to let petty disagreements escalate into violenc is just plain stupid. That comes with the IQ.

GuyIncognito
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GuyIncognito 03/22/09 - 10:15 am
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Gentrification just shifts

Gentrification just shifts the problem. The poor people have to go somewhere. All SargentMidTown is proposing is to force out as many lower income people so that the "30%" criminal element will be displaced, shifting the problem to another neighborhood. Also,
SargentMidTown is operating on the assumption that Harrisburg has enough appeal to draw in middle and upper income individuals.

WW1949
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WW1949 03/22/09 - 10:32 am
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Not a chance for upper income

Not a chance for upper income but maybe lower middle. Sarge is barking up the wrong tree. I commend his efforts. The upper would move no lower than Gary St. and to the opposite side of Walton Way from Baker St towards the hill area.

FallingLeaves
27
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FallingLeaves 03/22/09 - 10:47 am
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THANK YOU for that map! Note

THANK YOU for that map! Note the cluster of pins near the intersection of Deans Bridge and Bobby Jones. I have lived in four homes in that area since the mid-60's trying to move away from crime problems. Apparently I haven't moved far enough away. Is it possible to do another map of homicides in the past 10 years and designate solved and unsolved? I think you will notice at least one interesting cluster. A cluster should show in the same area, if I'm remembering the news articles correctly. And I think I am.

petersteelmore
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petersteelmore 03/22/09 - 10:57 am
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HARRISBURG????? Imagine

HARRISBURG????? Imagine that--who'd of thunk it!!!

heart_less
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heart_less 03/22/09 - 11:47 am
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A program needs to be set up

A program needs to be set up to give the young people something to do after school. They need an outlet. They need someone to talk to. They need someone to give them encouragement. They need role models.

petersteelmore
0
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petersteelmore 03/22/09 - 11:56 am
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heart, no, what they need is

heart, no, what they need is discipline at home and school. Parents don't want to be parents, they just want the check!

SargentMidTown
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SargentMidTown 03/22/09 - 12:23 pm
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GuyIncognito ...Harrisburg is

GuyIncognito ...Harrisburg is already drawing the better class of individuals because of the rock bottm home prices, archetecture,and location, location, location, It is in the middle of everything. http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2009/03/22/liv_515473.shtml GuyIncognito ...Harrisburg is already drawing the better class of individuals because of the rock bottom home prices, architecture,and location, location, location, It is in the middle of everything. http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2009/03/22/liv_515473.shtml

sassygalady30
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sassygalady30 03/22/09 - 12:24 pm
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nw they alow the child mel.

nw they alow the child mel. to live all over gordon hwy..who would want to live there but trouble...i sure wouldn't stay there

My_2nd
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My_2nd 03/22/09 - 01:07 pm
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heart less - NO...they need

heart less - NO...they need their fathers to actually be fathers and not sperm donors.

jack
10
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jack 03/22/09 - 03:24 pm
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Baroness, North Augusta is

Baroness, North Augusta is here waiting on you.

HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 03/22/09 - 04:50 pm
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Surprise Surprise! Looks Like

Surprise Surprise! Looks Like South Disgusta is living up to its reputation.

BakersfieldCityLimits
1
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BakersfieldCityLimits 03/22/09 - 05:17 pm
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Maybe if more of the deputies

Maybe if more of the deputies exhibited the work ethic of Lt. Gay we wouldn't have a crime problem at all. Since taking command of the special operations division of the Sheriff's Department Lt. Gay has made some great changes.

SargentMidTown
8
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SargentMidTown 03/22/09 - 05:53 pm
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South Augusta has the most

South Augusta has the most section 8 rentals and the most crime. It figures: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/memphis-crime

SargentMidTown
8
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SargentMidTown 03/22/09 - 05:56 pm
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So West Augusta is leading

So West Augusta is leading with sexual assults. Who would have guessed?

FallingLeaves
27
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FallingLeaves 03/22/09 - 07:47 pm
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Just heard three gunshots,

Just heard three gunshots, pop, pop, pop, in Lumpkin Road area, at 7:42pm. I already called them in, don't know anything else.
Posted by baroness on Sun Mar 22, 2009 7:46 PM

That would be in the vicinity of Augusta Tech and Green Meadows Drive/Richmond Hill Road....

jimmyjohnson2
0
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jimmyjohnson2 03/22/09 - 07:49 pm
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black is black, no one wants

black is black, no one wants them back!!!

Does_it_really_matter
1
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Does_it_really_matter 03/22/09 - 08:36 pm
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Sarge, if you are sooo

Sarge, if you are sooo miserable, you should be the one to leave.

petesteelmore_
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petesteelmore_ 03/22/09 - 09:17 pm
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dirm, why--he wants a better

dirm, why--he wants a better neighborhood. What do you want?---------idiot!

HillGuy
7
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HillGuy 03/22/09 - 11:50 pm
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PPl... most of these

PPl... most of these so-called "sexual assaults" are statutory rape.. which 90% of the time is where a boyfriend and girlfriend have consensual sex, but one is a year or two older than the other, who is under the age of consent..so under the law its considered rape.. but its not like random violent rape.. It's basically consensual sex between two teenagers.

Brad Owens
4429
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Brad Owens 03/23/09 - 05:44 am
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Crime is centered in areas

Crime is centered in areas with a higher level of poverty? Now THAT is news!

Bulldog
1324
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Bulldog 03/23/09 - 10:13 am
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The sheriff is doing a great

The sheriff is doing a great job of routing out the criminals in Harrisburg, with the help of the people living there. People in Harrisburg have finally had enough and are fighting back. Criminals can no longer depend on lack of civic engagement to cover their activity. They are being turned in by concerned citizens every day. The tide has turned!

HillGuy
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HillGuy 03/23/09 - 02:45 pm
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And ppl in South Disgusta

And ppl in South Disgusta wonder why they can't attract nicer restaurants and stores. No business wants to locate in a high crime area where they run a greater risk of being robbed, plus their insurance is higher.

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