05/04/11 — Day Circle residents voice concerns

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Day Circle residents voice concerns

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on May 4, 2011 1:46 PM

Two months after a 3-year-old was fatally shot at The Grand at Day Point Apartments, the housing complex's crime watch committee held a meeting to address community concerns about the violence in the area.

District 4 Councilman the Rev. Charles Williams attended the meeting last week where about 20 residents, nearly all women, gathered to discuss problems and to suggest solutions.

Speaking first, Rev. Williams reaffirmed what he said in a City Council meeting March 21 in response to those who would have the complex shut down.

"If you shut it down, where would the residents go?" he said. "This is their home. They're paying rent here, and they live here. It's their home."

The rent that residents at The Grand pay is subsidized significantly, which means they would have nowhere to go if the apartments closed, complex residents said.

Gloria Phillips, a resident and member of the crime watch committee, then turned the discussion toward the community's concerns, namely loitering throughout the night and frequent gunfire.

"We never know what night we might have to duck and crawl on the floor," she said, adding that the shooting happens even during the day while children are playing outside. "We've got to snatch them and run in the house."

She said the problems aren't just with residents of The Grand, either -- that often, outsiders including residents from a nearby housing complex, come to Day Point to fight residents, sometimes coming through a hole in a boundary fence and firing guns.

When Mrs. Phillips mentioned that all four of her tires were slashed last year and that the same thing had happened to another resident last week, the discussion turned to the culture of the complex, whereby those who "snitched," including members of the crime watch committee, are often targeted and face repercussions if it becomes known who has called in law enforcement.

The conversation then took another turn as resident after resident noted issues with police patrols in the area. Mrs. Phillips spoke of the slow response time, while others spoke of shootings and fights happening while squad cars were sitting in the parking lot of the housing office. One resident said that officers waited for a fight between two females to end on its own about a year ago before acting.

Two part-time police officers are employed to patrol the property regularly throughout the week. Residents said both of the officers were on the property Feb. 27 when the shooting that killed Princess King occurred, but weren't in the area where the shots were fired. The officers don't follow a set schedule of patrols and instead have patrol hours that vary from week to week.

Williams' suggestions to help stop the violence and deter criminal activity included installing surveillance cameras on the property, although funding for that would have to come through the complex's owner, McClain Barr and Associates. Residents asked Williams to pressure the company, as they said their repeated calls to the office in Summerfield went unanswered.

Eric Hatchett, assistant to Steve McClain and David Barr, said Thursday it was true that many calls were not returned, but that it was because residents often did not leave call back numbers or even mention what apartment complex their call concerned. The firm owns 17 properties across the Carolinas.

Hatchett said future callers could reach the office at 1-336-644-1262, and speak directly to him by dialing extension 204.

Residents said they would like to have a representative from the property owners, ideally McClain or Barr, to attend a future meeting.

Anna Marie Rojek, the district manager who oversees The Grand as well as 12 other properties for McClain Barr, said meetings in the past that she had attended weren't well-received, but added she would gladly make an appearance at a future meeting.

"It's very nice to see that people are ready to step up and be involved," she said, adding that a new resident-run organization, Hand in Hand, is in the works to keep a finger on the pulse of the community's concerns.

She said community organizations in the past had failed in that housing development, but that this group showed promise in its second meeting.

While Mrs. Rojek said that surveillance cameras and gates were ideas that would be considered, she said grants that provided funds for those types of securities had been cut back during the recession. She said the wiring and digging required for cameras would be exceedingly expensive for a property that size.

What is being done, however, is the implementation of a new position filled by police officers to work in the office and to assist as an enforcement manager. Mrs. Rojek said the job description is being finalized for the Goldsboro Police Department to look over and she hopes to have the position active by June 1.