Drug dealers driving residents out of Urbancrest

To help build a better and safer community, administrators in the Village of Urbancrest have been working with local entities on ways to improve their image.

They applied for and received a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant from Franklin County to repair worn streets that begins on Sept. 8.

The Franklin County Commissioners are investing in a $300,000 Bending Brook infrastructure project that will provide sidewalks, speed bumps, lighting and handicapped accessibility throughout the apartment complex, which is slated to begin on Sept. 29.

They are in the process of talking to architects about building a new municipal complex, and at the Sept. 2 Village of Urbancrest Council meeting, it was announced they are applying for a $300,000 grant from the United States Department of Education to build a education resource center for the residents.

"It would be for whatever the community needs," said Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr. "It would have computers, up to date technology, areas for students to be able to their homework and tutors available to help them."

However, despite all of their efforts to improve Urbancrest, residents say if they cannot clean up a major problem, there will be no community left to reap the benefits of their hard work.

"There is a major drug problem here," said resident Paul Sloane. "It wasn’t as bad when I moved here four years ago, but it’s worse now than it was before. I can’t live with this. I can’t live in fear because of this."

Sloane said the last straw was when he was threatened with a weapon by a drug dealer near his house on Second Avenue and now he and his family are moving out of the area.

"When I moved here, I thought it would be a good place to live, and I still think so," he said. "There are good people here, and I know the mayor is doing everything he can to help, but we got an epidemic on hand over there."

Another resident, Mona Schaffer, agreed with Sloane and said drugs are the reason she is moving out also.

"I am not frightened or easily intimidated, but I’m not comfortable anymore," she said. "I have grandchildren and I don’t want them endangered or exposed to this."

Barnes said there are things in motion that he could not discuss at this time to help curb the drug dealing problem in the area, but they are not blind to the situation.

"We know that it’s there and we are working hard to remove this problem," he said.

He added they would not let this problem shape the future of the community.

"We can only work towards the future. That’s where we have to begin."

One resident said he would be willing to donate his house to use as a substation to aid in getting rid of the drug trafficking problem.

Councilwoman Deborah Jackson said the village had employed a sheriff in the past.

"After that, we have a group that came in and took over the policing of Urban Hollow," she said. "They cleaned up the area and started intimidating the drug dealers right back."

She said they were not able to maintain either the sheriff or the policing group due to lack of funds.

"Enforcement all comes back to funds," she said. "It takes a whole village to attack this problem."

"I have two words for the community," said Sloane. "No tolerance.

"We have to keep that attitude in order to see real changes."

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