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Richard Hyatt: Neighbors share common fear

They live in different neighborhoods and had never met until Thursday, but in a matter of minutes, residents of Leesburg, Windsor Park and streets in between learned they share the same fears and concerns.

With them were the mayor, the police chief and a small army of officials who came to Blackmon Road Middle School to hear their grievances.

Some thought the night was reserved for Leesburg, which is being intimidated by ballers on a public basketball court on Old Dominion Road. They talk nasty, smoke dope and race through the neighborhood just off Billings Road.

But residents of comfortable old Windsor Park, who came telling stories of gunfire, break-ins and toddlers too scared to sleep alone, dominated the vacant lunchroom.

Before Mayor Teresa Tomlinson welcomed them, the two groups talked among themselves and realized they were there for the same reasons. Crime has been in the headlines recently, including a deadly crime that left three family members dead in their suburban home.

Though activities in their parts of town don't compare to the tragedy in Upatoi, their streets have been violated and, independently, they wonder if they will ever again feel safe after the sun goes down.

Police Chief Ricky Boren shared information that he hoped would ease the minds of residents living on the edge. He said 36 cars are assigned to the north precinct and that a response time of five minutes is normal for life-threatening calls, 10 minutes for other reports.

"But remember. When we drive up, everybody's an angel," said Maj. J.D. Hawk.

A resident of Leesburg said young people who like to play basketball are scared to go to the court on Old Dominion. A man from Windsor Park described jumping on a moving truck to attack a thug that had tried to break into his house. A young father moved here to raise his family and is ready to go back to Kennesaw.

"We found empty shells in our driveway, and my child hasn't slept in his own room since Christmas."

These stories shouldn't shock public officials. If they would assign someone in city government to monitor the Facebook pages of neighborhood groups, they would already sense the concerns.

Try new tactics, for as one woman said: "It's not the same Windsor Park."

Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at