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Southeast Raleigh Residents Fight to Rid Neighborhood of Drugs

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RALEIGH — Alcohol, drugs and crime go hand-in-hand in one Southeast Raleigh neighborhood. People who live there say enough is enough, and they're doing something about it. A church on Sawyer Street is helping residents fight for a drug free zone.

It's not uncommon to see gangs of teenagers gathering on these streets selling drugs. The small, but dense Southeast Raleigh neighborhood has also seen it's share of violence. For years, the church has been trying to clean up the streets, but they can't do it alone. Finally, they're getting some help.

A year ago elders from the church spoke to a tough talking teenager who was doing drugs and living in the streets. Two weeks later Kawame Mays killed two people, including a police officer.

"He was just one that we were not able to reach, but certainly one we did try to reach," said Reverend Phillip Walker of Mt. Pleasant Worship.

Such situations have convinced residents something needs to be done to cleanup up the neighborhood.

"It's a place where people come in and out, throughout the day, the evening, basically to get high," said community advocate David Baker.

"Basically what they're doing is selling crack," said Tyler Toulan, president of a neighborhood homeowners' association.

Drug dealers and prostitutes hang out in front of convenience stores and cruise nearby residential streets, and people there want it to stop.

"We want the people who live here to as well as the landlords to be involved in this effort," said Toulan.

"There is an alternative and a way to change what happens here if we don't like it," said Baker.

Residents have formed the Phoenix Square Neighborhood Coalition. No trespassing signs give residents the right to call police when they see suspicious people. Bernice Kemp supports the effort. She wants her neighborhood to be a place where families feel safe.

"Keep working together, work hard enough we can change, one person can make a difference," said Kemp.

The biggest obstacle the group has to overcome is getting people to call police. In the past they have been afraid of retaliation.

Police have given residents a new tool -- their pager numbers so that they can respond quickly and directly to crimes.

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Amanda Lamb, Reporter
Joe Frieda, Photographer
MJ Ainsley, Web Editor

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