05/24/06 — Residents say drugs, violence plague their neighborhood

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Residents say drugs, violence plague their neighborhood

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on May 24, 2006 1:54 PM

Gunshots and screaming -- sounds many residents of the Leslie Street neighborhood said they have come to expect and fear. And then there are the prostitutes, drug dealers, homeless and violent youths.

Roughly 50 residents from the blocks surrounding Leslie Street gathered at the W.A. Foster Center Tuesday to ask city officials for help. The mayor, city manager, department heads and city staff were on hand for the second city-sponsored neighborhood meeting of the year.

Pat Anderson said gunshots and "blood curdling screams" often wake her in the night.

"It sounds like they're killing each other," she said.

By day, she added, fear of "thugs" disrupts her yardwork.

"I, too, am having to force my way through thugs," Mrs. Anderson said, adding she is forced to carry protection while working in her front yard.

Applause from the neighbors in attendance showed those on hand that many residents in the area face the same fears.

Scottie Weathers said she has lived in Goldsboro her entire life, but shares her neighbors' concerns about drugs, gunshots and prostitution.

"I love Goldsboro. It's my hometown," she said. "But I'm scared of Goldsboro."

Bill Goodman said there is reason to fear these streets -- and a great need to fix the problems on the blocks surrounding Leslie Street.

"We have prostitution running from Elm Street to Walnut day and night," he said. And we have drug houses and crack houses right here in this community."

Goodman added it's not just people being hurt by these issues. Goldsboro itself is suffering, too.

"It hurts me when I see this community deteriorating and coming down," he said.

Debra Hargrove said the community is falling apart and added that she worries about the safety of her children -- and all children -- who grow up on these blocks. The street is a dangerous place for them, she said, but it's the only place they have.

"Now that the (recreation) center burned down, they have no place to go," she said. "I fight every day to keep my 10-year-old son from being a drug dealer on the street."

Mrs. Hargrove added she has learned to always keep one eye open, watching the streets for dangerous people.

"You don't turn your back on the streets," she said. "You've got to protect your kids."

Other neighbors voiced their concerns about inadequate housing and vacant dwellings.

Darcy Davis has lived on the block for 50 years and said one particular eyesore needs to go.

"This house over there, it's been empty 20 years," she said. "It's a place for drug addicts, homeless people and whoever else wants to be there. That's a sore eye to us. We don't need to see that when we come out."

Diane Saunders agreed and added many houses would look fine if landlords were held accountable for fixing them up.

"What can we do about these slumlords that we have?" she asked.

City Manager Joe Huffman said he doesn't have all the answers -- no one does. Still, the concerns voiced at the meeting will be looked into, he said, and follow-up meetings will be planned.

"We don't want this to be the end," he said. "We want it to be the beginning."

City Council member Bob Waller said it is up to both the city and its residents to solve the tough issues Goldsboro faces.

"I challenge you to become involved," he said. "This is your city."