Rewind 20 years ago when an area known affectionately as Scottown was a close-knit community of mostly relatives or people who had homesteaded there for 50 years or more. Young men brought their brides home to live in the area among longtime friends. It was a nice rural place to live.
Fast forward and the area is vastly different today. The homeowners say they want their community back, and they will not allow the discontent or thieves and robbers to dictate how they live. The culprits, they know, live among them but are not of them.
Just recently, according to Jolene Williams, Crime Prevention Coordinator with the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Department, several young men broke into the home of an elderly woman. She had nothing of value they wanted so they took the deeds to the woman’s house, her Social Security card and other papers that were personally important. “The woman was upset and didn’t really know where to turn, so she put out the word in the community that she would give $50 to anyone who returned her papers. The papers were returned,” she said, adding “our senior citizens, nor anyone else, should have to live like that.”
Sheriff Morris Young said the county is able to track crime spikes in certain areas because of the number of calls coming in for assistance on things like burglaries, robberies and home invasions. The program Williams coordinated is community-based and operated by the residents of that neighborhood.
“The crime rate in Scottown went up, and the citizens wanted something done about it. But we need the help of the community if we are going to stop this. We can go in but we need the community to embrace us as helping them,” Young said.
Residents have been meeting since April, discussing ways to deter crime. Meeting are held at a community church on Charlie Harris Loop whose pastor and members have opened their facility for the meetings at 7:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of each month.
On Aug. 24, prior to their first neighborhood walk to prevent crime, residents threw themselves a cookout at Scottown Park. While young men played basketball and children enjoyed the see-saw and merry-go-round, adults talked about what they can do to prevent crime.
“The biggest problems I see are robberies and home invasions. The citizens are going to have to stop worrying about being tattletales and help get these people out of our neighborhood,” said Paul Johnson who participated in the walk along with his wife, J.J.
“This is a community that wants and needs our help. They know that the people coming into their homes are those who live among them. I really believe, from what they’ve been saying at these meetings, that they will take the initiative to make their community safer,” Williams said.
A community picnic was held prior to dusk start off the neighborhood walk. With flashlights in hand and police escorts, about 40 men, women and children walked through the Scottown neighborhood on both sides of Attapulgus Highway to show solidarity and unity and to remind those who would commit crimes that they will not be tolerated.