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Gainesville councilman spearheads neighborhood watch
George Wangemann2014
George Wangemann

A Gainesville city councilman, working with the police department, is organizing a neighborhood watch program for the location of two recent West Avenue killings.

Councilman George Wangemann, a West Avenue resident, collaborated with Gainesville police spokesmen Cpls. Joe Britte and Kevin Holbrook to set up the program after the recent violence, with the initial meeting set for 7 p.m. this Thursday.

“A couple of days ago, I got a call from my wife that we had a car slam into our utility pole in front of our house, which caused a little stir there,” Wangemann said. “It’s just a combination of things like that that causes me to want to help people become more watchful on the street.”

Within eight days of each other, two homicides occurred in that Gainesville neighborhood. Leshan Tremiele Tanner, 42, and Rodnie Maurice Stokes, 27, are accused in the June 5 shooting of Cedric Antonio Huff, 41, in a drug-related incident. Pamela Ann Porter, 48, is accused of the June 13 stabbing of her live-in boyfriend Rodney Griffith, 48.

Walking door to door to invite residents, Wangemann said eagerness exists among some of the avenue’s residents for such a program.

“They’re excited about the neighborhood watch because they felt like something like this needed to be organized years ago along West Avenue,” he said. “West Avenue is an old street ... and it has a lot of walking traffic on it.”

At the meeting, Britte and Holbrook will explain what to look for and how to strengthen the neighborhood.

“The thing we’d like to spark up in the community is getting everybody involved,” Britte said. “Involvement in your community is a good thing. Turning a blind eye to certain things that may transpire in the neighborhood can sometimes be detrimental to other people in the neighborhood.”

While some of the recent events have shocked certain residents into action, Wangemann said another benefit of the program is keeping everyone in the know.

“It’s galvanized some support, although some people that live off the side streets didn’t know there were any (slayings) that took place along West Avenue, and I was surprised by that,” he said.

Streets included in the watch program include Rosecliff Terrace, Broad Street Place, and Comer, Brookwood and James streets.

The efficiency of such a program, Britte said, involves engagement with the community to ensure the protection of the area.

“We always want to have the community’s input and assistance in making the neighborhood a better place to live by joining forces with the Gainesville Police Department,” he said. “I feel it’s a win-win situation when we can all band together and provide the safety in the community.”

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Gainesville Public Safety Complex, 701 Queen City Parkway. The meeting, according to Wangemann, will last about an hour.