Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fed Up with Drugs Neighborhood Takes a Stand

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fed Up with Drugs Neighborhood Takes a Stand

Article excerpt

Members of the Lackawanna Community Group stared in disgust at the tiny plastic bags littering Mallison Park.

It was a tangible reminder of why they were taking to the streets.

Each bag had contained about $5 to $10 worth of crack cocaine, said Diane Kerr, a North Riverside resident who is a veteran anti-drug activist.

The wrappers, some clear, some gold, some blue, had been tossed on the ground after the drug was removed.

"I haven't seen this many in one place at one time," Kerr said of the 10 to 15 innocuous-looking bags discarded in a picnic area on the park's grassy perimeter.

The bags were raked up and dumped in a blue trash bin.

Mary McDowell, the association's vice president, picked up a broken beer bottle, another symbol of the problems plaguing the Westside community, and dropped it in the trash.

"Tomorrow there will be another mess," said the group's president, Everett Robinson.

But not without a fight from Robinson and other Lackawanna residents, who said they are fed up with drugs and crime infesting their neighborhood.

About 10 of them gathered at the park Monday night to march along Day Avenue from Lenox Avenue to Warrington Street. They were joined by representatives of Turn Around Jacksonville, a community policing group whose members wear yellow T-shirts bearing the slogan, "Up with hope, down with dope."

Rosa Stephens and Ada Mae Green, Turn Around Jacksonville members who live in Royal Terrace on the Northside, said the marches had a beneficial impact on their neighborhood.

"It empowered the residents to stand up, and we got new members," said Stephens, president of the Royal Terrace Community Association and a Neighborhood Watch coordinator. "I had them [drug dealers] on my street, and I wanted to help get rid of the problem. That's what it's all about - taking back our neighborhood."

Kerr went over the chants with the marchers and demonstrated how to use the bullhorns, as their police car escorts drove up.

"Oh, look, they scattered when the men in blue came," said Sandra Orange, the group's secretary, referring to some basketball players at the park who suddenly vanished as did youths who had been behind a convenience store at Day and Lenox. …

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