Westside neighbors plan watch program

Westside neighbors plan watch program

October 1st, 2011 by Yolanda Putman in News

Lisa Rooks stands outside of her College Hill Courts apartment.

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.


Westside residents will discuss a communitywide Neighborhood Watch at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Renaissance Presbyterian Church, 1211 Boynton Drive.

After six shootings -- including one fatality -- in College Hill Courts this year, residents of the city's largest public housing site are banding with residents in other Westside apartments to form a communitywide Neighborhood Watch.

"Everybody will have each other's back," said Lisa Rooks, vice president of the College Hill Courts Resident Council. "We're standing together to protect our community."

Residents interested in forming a Neighborhood Watch are asked to meet Thursday at Renaissance Presbyterian Church. Anyone from the eight Westside housing sites is welcome to attend.

"We're protecting ourselves against gang violence, shoplifting if we get a store, breaking in people's homes and car theft," said Rooks.

The latest shooting at College Hill Courts happened Sept. 18 when Westside resident Agustin Kagoma was shot while trying to run to his West 13th Street Court address to escape a robbery.

Members of different Westside resident councils began discussing the unified neighborhood watch during a meeting in September organized by the local advocacy group Chattanooga Organized for Action.

Rooks suggested the watch after the opening of a Chattanooga Housing Authority police precinct proposed for College Hill Courts was delayed this summer.

CHA officials proposed the office in June, the same month 20-year-old Cecil Timmons was fatally shot in the chest at College Hill Courts.

CHA officials say the office still is opening, even with the delay. The office will open as soon as CHA gets HUD approval, which usually takes about 30 days, CHA Public Safety Chief Felix Vess said.

The police office is intended to increase police visibility on the site, said CHA board Chairman Eddie Holmes. It will not be manned regularly, but law enforcement officers may use the office to fill out paperwork and to conduct interviews, CHA officials said.

The Rev. Leroy Griffith, a Westside resident and retired minister who serves at the Renaissance Presbyterian Church, said all Westside resident leaders are forming the neighborhood watch to clean up their community.

"We're in this together," said Griffith. "If the police bear down in one neighborhood, the entrepreneurs will find a new place to set up shop. It's typical business behavior."

The Neighborhood Watch is an asset because it enables residents to help themselves, said Holmes.

"Residents know better than anyone what's going on in the unit," he said. "A Neighborhood Watch would be an outstanding tool to help deter some of the activities that maybe going on."