Few Gardens Residents Blame Outsiders for Crime
Posted April 8, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT
DURHAM — Few Gardens is no stranger to violence. Four years ago, two-year-old Shaquana Atwater was accidentally shot and killed in the Durham housing complex. After that tragedy, residents got together to make their neighborhood safer.
It worked. But now residents say they have a new problem. People from outside the development are bringing drugs, guns and problems inside. The latest shooting victim, Tiquan Mikell, is hanging on to life. The suspect, a man known on the street as "York," is from New York. He reportedly had been staying with someone in the neighborhood.
Neighbors say they're tired of crime, especially the kind brought in from the outside. Residents now plan to work together and with community officers to make a difference.
The children of Few Gardens were outside playing one day after Mikell was shot in the back by a stray bullet. The same day, the kids were greeted by a familiar face, officer Brian Reitz, who patrols the neighborhood by bike 42 hours a week.
Reitz is a community police officer who often talked and played with young Tiquan. He says it broke his heart when he heard what had happened. Like many children, Tiquan was awe-struck by Reitz in his police uniform. He and the other children see Reitz as their friend.
As with other cases, Reitz believes the community could be a big help in solving the crime, so he shows the composite photo of "York" in the hopes he has gained the trust of the people.
"If they ever need something from us, we need to deliver that," Reitz says. "I need to develop that trust, so if I ever need something from them, like information on a case like this, I need for them to have that trust, so they can trust me with that information."
Cooperation from the community has not always come easily in Few Gardens. Some residents admit that it's time for that to change. Annie Mae Spears says that the officers do the best that they can do. She says that when the people in the community aren't talking, there's only so much the police can do.
Officers say they are making progress in the Few Gardens community. Since the policing program's inception, violent crime is down by 7% in Few Gardens. That's little comfort, however, to the family of Tiquan Mikell, a child whose life has been changed forever.