East Henrico neighbors unite to take back their neighborhoods - NBC12 - Richmond, VA News

East Henrico neighbors unite to take back their neighborhoods

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This year, there have already been 10 homicides in Henrico County. More than half of all of those crimes happened in Eastern Henrico and a few of them remain unsolved. So right now - the people who live there are uniting and fighting back.

East Henrico won't soon forget two high profile homicides that tore into the heart of the community.

At the start of the year, Jamon Burroughs arrested for shooting beloved store clerk Farooq Bhimdi.

Just last week - Sterling Pittman accused of gunning down Knighton Hill outside his home.

"The neighborhood was just blown to pieces," said neighborhood watch President Richard Hatcher.

Hill was shot and killed - just a couple of blocks away from where Hatcher lives.

"We're going to stand together as neighbors to protect our neighborhood," he said.

Recently, Hatcher has noticed shady dealings outside his front door.

"Cars coming through stopping face to face, passing something from window to window. I've seen more strange young people walking through that I've never saw before," he explains.

So the community watchman is fighting back. He's installed security cameras around his house. He can monitor them from his I-pad anytime, anywhere.

He's also posted No Trespassing signs at each entrance of his Maplewood Farms subdivision.

It's become a community crusade extending beyond just the neighbors themselves. Many Eastern Henrico churches are now realizing they too can play a part.

"These are our communities and if we're going to take them back then we've got to get involved," said Denise Thomas-Brown of St. Paul's Baptist Church.

So Thomas-Brown is organizing a new community-wide initiative, targeting former gang members and actually welcoming them back to the neighborhood.

"Help them get adjusted or we can ignore them like we've been doing and let them fend for themselves," she explained.

She says without support many ex-cons fall back into a life of violence. So the church's idea - get former criminals involved in keeping residents safe.

"What better people to help interrupt the violence than the people who come from those communities," Thomas-Brown added.

Leaders at St. Paul's are calling on other churches to join them as they prepare to roll out the new initiative in 2014.

"We cannot leave things up to lawmakers to make decisions in our communities. This is where we live. These are our people. These are our family members. These are our kids," she said.

That's a fact not lost on Hatcher. 25 years after he moved here, he's determined criminals won't drive him out.

"Life is short and you should enjoy it. You shouldn't have to be locked up in your house….You need to feel safe in your neighborhood," he said.

Henrico Police are encouraging neighbors to sign up for its Citizen's Police Academy. Anyone can apply to learn more about what police do and how building relationships with officers helps fight crime where you live. To sign up, just call (804) 501-4838 or click here.

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