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Neighborhood news

Residents share hope, frustration, anger

By CATHERINE E. SHOICHET
Published May 11, 2007


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In their hands, dozens of residents held bright, fresh-cut flowers.

In their presentations, they talked of stepping up code enforcement and cleaning up crime.

In their voices, they had hope.

"Areas around Palm River, several years ago, they were a lot worse, " County Commission Chairman Jim Norman told more than 100 residents at a town hall meeting last week. "The citizens involved are pulling it up from the grass roots. And that's how you save an area."

All seven county commissioners and several county staffers fielded questions from residents of Palm River, Clair-Mel, Progress Village and Riverview.

Waving a red flower labeled with a "Beautify Palm River" sign, neighborhood activist Liz Gutierrez described Palm River as a "community at a crossroads."

She said the county-sponsored community plan currently in the works will give the area a strong jump start.

"After that plan is done, words are words, " said Gutierrez, director of the community advocacy group Palm River POINT. "Actions are what matter."

One new Palm River resident announced plans for a giant block party in July.

But some residents said they were frustrated.

Several described concerns about water service and stormwater drainage.

"We realize that the services out here are not adequate. ... We're trying to do everything we can to upgrade the lines, " County Commissioner Kevin White said. "It's going to be a daunting and expensive task."

Other residents said they were fed up with crime.

The meeting came less than a week after a Hillsborough County sheriff's detective was shot during an undercover drug bust in Progress Village.

Shirley Griffin said the images of police officers going door-to-door in search of suspects were still fresh in her mind.

"That was awesome to have all of those brave men come in. ... I was so afraid to come out the door Saturday afternoon, " she said. "I locked the doors and stayed inside. You need more manpower."

Palm River resident Barbara Baity said she was angry. On her street, she said, she regularly watches drug deals.

"You don't have to be an undercover cop. We see it every day, " she said. "Why can't we shut these houses down? Put a policeman in my yard. I'll feed him."

Sheriff's Capt. John Marsicano said investigators are continuing efforts to fight crime in the area.

"We'll do something more than we've been doing, " he said. "I know that you've got an issue out there. I'm sorry."

Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at cshoichet@sptimes.com or 661-2454.

[Last modified May 10, 2007, 07:54:19]


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