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Crime-ridden area seeks Gainesville's help

Residents petition City Council to clean up Beechwood Boulevard

POSTED: February 13, 2009 12:02 a.m.

Residents of Beechwood Boulevard have asked for the Gainesville City Council’s help in reclaiming their neighborhood.

Residents of the area are living in fear, and the street has become the target of burglars, graffiti spray cans and drug
dealers, said a resident who spoke Thursday to the City Council on the group’s behalf.

Residents are organizing a Neighborhood Watch program, but have asked for the help of the city police and marshals to change the direction of their neighborhood.

"We’ve got to have help," resident Linda Stokes said. "Because, I say this in all earnest, I am afraid."

Juveniles who live in the area cause most of the problems, Police Chief Frank Hooper said.

The problems are such that some have advised Stokes to move out of the area.

"We need more to be done, because I am tired of city officials telling me it’s time for me to move," the resident said. "I’ve paid for my home, and I don’t intend on moving."

Gainesville Mayor Myrtle Figueras asked the woman to name a person who advised her to move, but she would not.

Aside from crime, the street has other problems.

Residents told council members that homes have fallen into disrepair, others have junked cars in the yards and others have livestock running loose.

At Thursday’s work session, council members discussed having city marshals conduct "sweeps" of the neighborhood to check each house for compliance with city codes.

Police also have suggested creating a Neighborhood Watch program. Residents say they have tried three times to create such a program with no success. They are organizing another one, which will meet for the first time March 5.

Ten residents of the area have committed to the new Neighborhood Watch, city police Capt. Paul Sherman said.

"The 10 members that I’m talking about are people who speak Vietnamese and Spanish and so on and so forth, so we’ve got our foot in the door," Sherman said.

The success of the new watch program will depend on participation, especially from parents, Hooper told the council.

"It’s going to be up to the neighborhood to keep it going," he said.

Hooper said his force has made a few arrests in the area. Occasionally, the department "saturates" the area with officers with some progress, he said.

"Unfortunately, when we pull out things seem to deteriorate," Hooper said. "Of course, it’s difficult to us. We wish we could keep an officer in the neighborhood 24/7, but we all know we can’t do that. I don’t have the manpower. I don’t have just a person I can stick over there."



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