Urbancrest residents fed up with crime, want action

In recent months, residents of the village of Urbancrest have noticed an increase of criminal activities, such as drug dealing, prostitution and vagrancy in their area.

The escalation of these issues has prompted a few neighbors to relocate to a different city, but those who want to remain are fighting back.

"I’m sick and tired of this," said Hannah Pack. "We need to take drastic measures and find out what we can do to get this trash out of here."

Pack was just one of the dozens of Urbancrest residents who came out to a community forum with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office on Sept. 17 to voice their concerns about the state of the village – and seek solutions.

"What can I do myself without having to go to jail for shooting them?" one woman asked the deputies who were present at the meeting.

Major Alan Mann stressed the importance of calling in any sort of activities they feel are suspicious.

"Before you call in, pay attention to the details," he said. "Get a license plate number or a physical description of the person if possible. If not, make note of what they are wearing, such as tennis shoes or the color of their T-shirts. Anything that can help us identify them when we come out."

Their response time was also an issue for some residents at the meeting.

"We need our own private police department," said Sonjia Mitchell. "We appreciate the effort of everyone who responds, but it takes them a while to get out here."

In previous years, the village had employed a sheriff and a private security company to quell the crime in the area, but had to cut both programs due to lack of funds.

"It is extremely expensive to set up your own force and I’m not just talking salaries," said Mann.

"Not only do you have to pay for their training, but you have to pay for liabilities. We had $5 million on liability claims last year and settled $1.5 million in lawsuits in the last two years."

Still, the residents and the village of Urbancrest council members believe it is something they need to set up again.  

"I recommend we contract with a private security group again," said Urbancrest councilwoman Deborah Jackson. "It’s something that we need."

Jackson also requested the sheriff’s office have a car assigned to the area, but Mann said he does not see that happening at this time.

"I can speak with the chief of the department about whether this is possible, but I don’t think it is very probable right now," he said.

In lieu of those options, Mitchell proposed constant vigilance for all of the Urbancrest community.

"You are your neighbor’s keeper," she said. "You have to use your eyes and ears. Everyone has to step up.

"We can’t let Urbancrest just go to heck in a hand basket."

Urbancrest Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr. agreed with her assessment.

"If we drive past something we view as suspicious and don’t call it in, it’s our fault too if something happens later."

Barnes said if you see someone just sitting in their car, there are three things that are more than likely happening.

"The first is that they are doing a drug deal, the second is there is a sexual act being committed, or they are casing a place," he said.

"We all have to call the police. The more we call and the more they are a presence out here, the less the vagrants will want to be around."

Mann said if residents are concerned about "snitching" they can call 462-3333 and ask to keep their identities secret when phoning in activities.

"Our men and women love nothing more than to bust people," he said. "If you see something you feel is suspicious, please don’t hesitate to call it in."

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