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Tue July 22, 2014
GSO Battles Crime in Public Housing Complexes, One Door at a Time
Gang fights put some public housing residents on edge.
Claremont Courts is a public housing complex in the Northeast section of Greensboro, just off Bywood Road, near Phillips Avenue. Residents enjoy shade trees and groomed lawns that complement the 250 apartments and townhomes in this complex. But some, like Star Valdez, complain it’s getting dangerous.
“Kids come over here fighting. But they’re not fighting anymore, they’re using guns," says Valdez. She's lived here for two years with her children. She says overall she feels safe but worries children will become innocent bystanders. “A boy, 13 or 14 years old, got shot in the middle, we were right outside.” On July 9 just after 11:30 at night, a juvenile was shot down the street from Valdez’s home on Patio Place. She says he was part of a crowd.
According to Greensboro police, a resident drove the victim to the hospital and the youth was treated for non-life threatening injuries. Investigators have made no arrests in this case. To address situations like this, Greensboro Housing Authority and the Greensboro Police Department have established Police Neighborhood Resource Centers in Claremont Courts and in the city’s four other major complexes.
Nine officers exclusively patrol the areas and work with residents. One of them is Officer Sherwood Clements-Lyons. He says the biggest problem is gang members from other parts of the city coming to Claremont to settle a score. “Somebody did something that somebody else didn’t like. They find out where they live and they come over to Claremont to fight," says Officer Clements-Lyons. "A lot of times when people are fighting they will show a gun but they don’t use it all of the time.” Officer Clements-Lyons says the department has asked GHA to put up security cameras on each building. He says this will help officer identify people causing fights and other problems. Daily, he patrols Claremont and five other public housing communities in Greensboro. The city has 19.
Also, to create a better partnership, one day a month, the police and GHA representatives are going door-to-door in the larger complexes. They began in June at Smith Homes and will conclude in October at Hickory Trails. “Officers going out door to door, giving out information, talking to the residents, letting them know we’re there if they need us. Letting them know we’re not just trying to take people to jail, we’re trying to help.” Thursday, at 3 p.m., a group will be in Claremont Homes.
Valdez likes this idea and likes the fact officers routinely patrol her complex. But she’s worried police presence isn’t enough to deter trouble-makers from other parts of town from coming to Claremont and causing problems. “To me, they (officers) worry about who’s banned over here. But we know who they are. You need to worry about the people who are not banned. Because those are the ones coming over here, shooting and leaving," says Valdez. "They know the police is over here but they don’t care.” Valdez also believes another problem is that most of the complex’s play areas are hidden behind buildings where people hang out, get into fights and use drugs. She’d like to see more play areas in front of the buildings so they are more visible to patrolling officers.