Neighbors ban together to clean up community

By Ed Brock

Rebecca Miller and some of her neighbors have had enough of living in a messy neighborhood.

They're tired of people failing to take care of their property. They're tired of the slow increase in possibly criminal activity going on around them. So now they're going to do something about it.

On Tuesday night they met with Clayton County Commissioner Wole Ralph and Clayton County Police Lt. Joe Ricci to discuss forming a neighborhood watch in Ashley Woods off Tara Road in south Clayton County.

"We're going to meet four times a year," Miller said.

Miller started the interest in forming the watch and enlisted the aid of two co-workers who are also neighbors, Lorena Deniese Williams and Carrie Rich, as well as neighbor Ann Deloach.

These are some of the complaints they addressed at Tuesday's meeting.

Miller said one day she noticed that a young boy who had been playing on her yard had been lured away into a neighbor's house.

"I went and knocked on the door and said what is that boy doing in the house," Miller said. "He said he's using the bathroom. I said no, I have a bathroom in my house."

Eventually the male neighbor, who was relatively new to the area, finally confessed that they were getting the boy to provide a urine sample for his wife, who was on probation and had been smoking marijuana all night, so she could pass a drug test.

There's the young people who speed on the neighborhood's narrow roads. Also, some people walk their dogs and let them defecate on other people's yards.

"The police said to call them when we see someone doing that," Miller said. "It's against the law, it's criminal trespass."

And then there's the general look of the place.

"We have a lot of homeowners who are renting their property out or don't care about their property," said Williams who has lived in the neighborhood for about seven years.

There are too many unkempt yards in the neighborhood and some people work on their cars in their driveways, Williams said. These things affect everybody, she added.

"No one can sell a home any more because it looks so horrible," Williams said.

Williams also wants to fix the sign at the entrance to the neighborhood since it has collapsed.

Rich, who has lived in the neighborhood for 14 years, said the group is about neighbors watching out for each other.

"There are a lot of people in our neighborhood I don't know and I've been there a long time," Rich said.

Ricci said the Ashley Woods watch is one of several such groups in the county and the department likes to promote the formation of such groups. As with the Ashley Woods watch group, Ricci provides information on common neighborhood crimes, the age group of people most likely to commit certain crimes, security measures that can be taken and how to keep their property looking good and relatively safe from burglars.

But members of the group are also told not to take things into their own hands, but to always call police when they see a crime in progress.

"The big thing is to make them realize that there is no property that is worth their lives," Ricci said.

Once the group is established Ricci will also provide a sign to let potential trouble makers no that a neighborhood watch is active in that community.

Role said with the county police force being undermanned a lot of citizens are doing what they can to stay safe.

"I think forming a neighborhood watch is a vehicle for them to take control of their neighborhood," Ralph said.

Anybody who wants to form a watch in their neighborhood should call the watch office for the county police department in their precinct. The North Precinct number is (770) 603-4070 and the South Precinct number is (770) 472-8078.