Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

They Keep Watch Neighbors Unite against Drug Dealers

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

They Keep Watch Neighbors Unite against Drug Dealers

Article excerpt



Because of an editing error, a photo caption on Page 1 of

yesterday's River City News misidentified James Tatum.


Once there were pick-up basketball and sandlot football games.

Children traipsed around at most any hour, neighbors were

friends, and the juke joint on the corner is where the young

folks gathered to dance.

That was the Morgan Street of another age, say residents who

have lived there 20 years or more.

"I remember when all this was built, when it was a dirt road,"

said James Tatum, 52, a former Jacksonville sheriff's

corrections officer now on disability. "You'd feel safe walking

on the streets."

Now, Tatum says, the shots he's heard at night have him afraid

for his grandchildren to be out after dark. "We've got to keep

them confined like they're in prison."

Sitting in a neighbor's yard, inside the perimeter of a 6-foot

barbed-wire fence recently, Tatum and a group of his neighbors

did indeed seem imprisoned.

They're weary of the traffic jams caused by cars stopping in the

road at a nearby crack house. They're sick of watching drug

dealers arrested, only to see others step in.

"I'm tired of all the drug sellers and pushers in my

neighborhood," said Jennie McGowian, 62. The owner of a blue

ranch house on Morgan Street -- and the barbed-wire fence that

encircled her friends the other day -- organized a Neighborhood

Watch a few months ago.

"We are supposed to watch each other's houses," explained

McGowian. "If you see anybody breaking into your friend's house,

you call the police."

Her face creased with age and worry, McGowian ministers to young

people on the streets some Saturday mornings.

She takes the gospel into her street, with its modest houses,

patches of overgrown weeds and litter along the curbs.

Sometimes, she successfully leads a prayer or two with "the lost

souls," as she calls them.

Frequently, though, boom boxes spewing out profanity-infused rap

music drown her out.

"I want it [her neighborhood] back," she said, stomping her

cigarette into the dirt. …

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