Bill Berry, who owns a home in the 200 block of East Main Street, says he and the residents of the community he lives in are tired of people snooping through their mailboxes and opening their mail.
Berry told the town council last week that squatters were the culprits in an issue that has been pestering the neighbors for more than a year. Berry said he has turned to every avenue for help but he’s been told no one can do anything. He said he is constantly running people off the properties of abandoned and boarded up homes in the area.
“When my renter comes to me and tells me, as a 26-year-old girl, that she feels unsafe now and she’s ready to move, now you’re affecting my income,” Berry said. “It’s time for them to go. They are not paying rent. They haven’t paid rent in a year. It’s time to go.”
Berry said many of his family members have left the community because no one has been able to help. He pleaded with the council to do something about it. He said he no longer knows where to go.
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“When the police left us on Main Street, we knew it was going to be a worse issue than what we had before,” Berry said in reference to the police department all moving under one roof on Seventh Avenue. “I’m to the point where I’m ready to go. I’ve had enough.”
Some council members and the town attorney said this was the first they heard of the issue.
Police Chief Brandon Zuidema said the police department is aware of the issue and the problems that have persisted for years. He said the department has taken steps to resolve it by starting a neighborhood watch and encouraging the residents to become more involved and report suspicious behavior.
Zuidema said the department has been unable to get much cooperation from the owners and residents of the property under question, but the department does have an active investigation into the area.
“We put out a reminder to have a more visible presence in the area,” Zuidema said.
Patrick Byrd, an owner of a business on Main Street, said he didn’t believe other business owners were not aware of what was going on.
“As business owners we certainly don’t want to see that either and we want to see the community thrive around our businesses,” Byrd said.
Council member Jackie Johns, who owns a few houses in the Main Street and historic downtown areas, said many of the neighbors have failed to get involved because they were afraid if they said anything there would be retribution.
“They see things and say they are afraid,” Johns said.
No other neighbors were at the meeting in support of the concerns.