In North Greenwood, safety in residents' hands

Published May 10, 2007

Residents of Clearwater's North Greenwood community could take a cue from the people of Ridgecrest when it comes to fighting back against crime. Ridgecrest residents got tired of not feeling safe in their own neighborhood, which is near Largo. They got fed up with the drug dealing, the property thefts and the home burglaries that had become commonplace.

They united behind the common goal of stopping it, and they knew just what to do: work with law enforcement officers instead of against them. They started phoning in tips and license plate numbers and pointing deputies in the right direction to find the perpetrators of crime. After a big community meeting in April, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office increased patrols and began making arrests.

North Greenwood's problem is even more serious. Four people have died in North Greenwood in violent homicides since 1992, and police have been unable to solve the crimes. Fifteen-year-old Melanie Warren was shot to death on a North Greenwood front porch May 24, 1992. Clarence Bolden, 37, was shot to death Feb. 7, 2002, while playing cards. Julian Kaigler, 25, was killed Feb. 14 of this year by an unknown shooter. Corey Brown, 33, was discovered in his home March 2. He had been shot to death.

Does it concern North Greenwood residents that those killing people in their neighborhood are getting away with it?

It certainly bothers resident Jonathan Wade, a social worker who has emerged as a leader in North Greenwood. Wade has tried hard to break through the code of silence police detectives have encountered when investigating the unsolved murders. He wants neighbors to help police fight crime in the neighborhood.

"That's not snitching, " Wade told residents in a meeting late last month. "That's called being a man."

At a meeting last summer, Wade joined police Chief Sid Klein in urging residents to tell detectives anything they knew or had heard about the murders. At that point, there were only two unsolved murders. Since Valentine's Day, two more have been added to the list. So another community meeting was called by Wade, with Klein front and center asking, "Why is it that nobody has come forward - that people will not talk to the police?"

Klein is convinced that North Greenwood residents know more than they are telling police and their silence is hindering his department's ability to solve the cases.

Klein and his department want badly to find the perpetrators - this is not a case of the police ignoring a minority neighborhood.

North Greenwood residents have the opportunity to do just as Ridgecrest residents have done: Stand up and say they won't take this anymore. As long as murderers remain on the street, no one is safe.