Jackie Gay has lived in the Belvedere neighborhood along Glenwood Road for about 32 years, she said. Like many of the neighborhood’s older residents, she remembers a more peaceful, pleasant place when she moved in.
Fast forward to several years ago. She stepped outside her front door and realized her home sat in the middle of a criminal breeding ground. A prostitute stood across the street, she said. Drug dealers occupied homes to her left, right and directly in front of her.
“I was right in the center,” she said.
So Gay and a small cadre of frustrated residents stood together in front of the 285 Flea Mart on Glenwood on Sept. 24 and marched with DeKalb County police officers, community group leaders and county Commissioner Larry Johnson.
They marched down Glenwood to the bridge that reaches over the north and southbound stretches of I-285 and paused for prayer as motorists rumbled by, staring at the marchers holding signs that said “Enough Is Enough.”
Residents said crime in the area has increased since Atlanta housing projects emptied, sending a flood of disadvantaged and under-employed residents into the area. The growing number of foreclosed homes hasn’t helped matters, creating havens for crime inside the neighborhoods.
Crime has gotten so bad businesses are starting to feel the pain as well, said Tamir Hasan, president of the Greater Towers Community Association. Local residents are wary to patronize businesses along Glenwood late at night because of suspicious foot traffic, and businesses feel the pain in their bottom line, he said.
“You’ve got more problems than just crime,” Hasan said. “You’ve got education issues, job issues. You’ve got health issues.”
Hasan and Ann Brown, president of the Belvedere Civic Club, said they were working with the police department to open a police substation nearby. A business owner has already offered to donate about 2,000 square feet for the station, they said.
“The criminal element is so strong,” Hasan said. “It’s dangerous.”
Before the group marched down Glenwood, Johnson grabbed a bullhorn and reminded residents what Wesley Chapel Road used to look like. A small group of committed residents there helped to turn around the busy corridor of resident and commercial properties.
“Don’t give up,” Johnson said. “There’s going to be a few of us, but we’re going to get some good work done. … Enough is enough, right?”