Businesses, Police Create Cleaner Community

Businesses, Police Create Cleaner Community

Aug. 21-28, 2002

When David Grieg took over as manager of the Sterling Park Domino's Pizza three months ago, the trash, weeds and the graffiti-covered back wall did not match the store's clean interior.

Grieg and Satinder Dhaliwal, manager of the Getty Mart Corp. next door, agreed to clean up the grounds around the two stores by removing trash, weeding the front area and planting flowers.

"We're cleaning it up from the ground up," said Grieg of Gainesville. "The object is to be a community leader for businesses. Typically, other businesses will follow suit."

Grieg and Dhaliwal coordinated with Deputy Chris Jones, community police officer, to put an end to the vandalism and graffiti occurring on the grounds. "This property had a history of problems. This became a haven for criminals to hang out," Jones said.

At the time, residents called the Sheriff's Office saying they did not feel safe going to the two businesses, which are located near Sterling Boulevard and Holly Avenue.

"If you do things to reduce or eliminate crime, i.e. beautifications and cleanups, you play a big part in providing a safe community," Jones said. "We have to be as much a partner as they are in keeping a safe atmosphere for their customers. It helps with their business, and it helps us in peace keeping."

THE DEPARTMENT of Parks, Recreation and Community Services (PRCS) joined in the cleanup effort Aug. 14-15 by sending seven youth in the Work Ordered Repayment by Kids (WORK) program to provide community service at the two business. The PRCS, along with the Juvenile Court Service Unit and the Juvenile Detention Center, coordinate the community service program to handle judge-ordered community service projects for juvenile offenders at the lower end of the graduated sanction scale. The program is in its third year of a five-year grant through the state Department of Correctional Services.

WORK gives the juveniles a chance to see what goes on in their community and what it takes to clean up an area, said Leon Evans, coordinator of WORK through PRCS. In turn, adults have a chance to mentor the offenders "in a sneaky way," he said, adding, "Some of these kids don't have a lot of structure. It's good for them to see positive role models and to see that the police aren't the bad guys."

Sgt. Rick Frye, supervisor of the Community Policing Section, stood on a ladder, painting the back wall of the Domino's side of the building as the juveniles pulled weeds out of the bushes and hauled away dead branches.

"We're out here working just like the kids are," Frye said on Wednesday. "It's a way police get closer to the community. ... A component of community policing is getting to know as many people as we can."

THE GRAFFITI Frye painted over "dampens the appearance of our neighborhood, and we're not going to tolerate it," he said. "It's improving the quality of life of citizens in this area by eliminating a blight ... just generally creating a more visual appeal to the Sterling neighborhood."

Fifteen-year-old Jordan Leckie agreed. "We actually hang out in places we fix up. It looks a lot better than graffiti all over the walls," said the Sterling boy, who was assigned to community service.

Jones said the juvenile offenders are not just doing work. "If you contribute to turning this around, you're making a difference in the community," he said.

Grieg already has noticed that difference.

"It's already started to help. We've had a lot more walk-in business," he said.

Paul Dhaliwal agreed. "The more clean it is, the more appealing it will look, and that's what you need in a business," said Dhaliwal, cashier at the store.