Hillsborough Sheriff's Office cleaning up Clair-Mel, Palm River area

12:59 PM, Nov 9, 2012   |    comments
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Clair-Mel, Florida -- Neighborhood activists like Ola Lott have been begging for help to clean up the Clair-Mel/Palm River area and on Friday, their calls were answered.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office rounded up more than 12 people wanted on charges ranging from drugs to serious felonies.

HCSO's Major Clyde Eisenberg says they've been focusing on the area for several years, reducing the serious crime rate in 2011 by 16%. He says they're already down by 14% so far this year.

But Lott says more still needs to be done to bring back the neighborhood she's called home for the last 37 years.

"Our biggest problem right now is drugs, even taking over this park is drugs," she said.

She hasn't been afraid to stand up for what's right in her community.

"When I come in front of these cameras, I get more calls, 'Aren't you afraid?' That's a big question. Yes, I'm afraid, but I'd rather be afraid to speak the truth than put up with it," she said.

She's not afraid to call when she suspects criminal activity and this morning, was on a ride-along with a sheriff's deputy when she discovered the round up of suspected criminals in her neighborhood.

"I was shocked when I drove up here and saw all these people. I was surprised," she said.

While deputies rounded up those wanted in the community, Code Enforcement cleaned out unlicensed businesses and cleaned up dilapidated properties, including a home on Clifford Sample Drive.

"It's about time," said Linda Shephard who has lived on the street for more than 40 years.

She says the home fell into disrepair two to three years ago, but the county could do nothing about it as it went through the foreclosure process.

Unfortunately, there are many more homes like it that often become a haven for criminal activity.

"Our goal is to limit the detriment to the community by boarding them up today, mowing the properties, trying to get them under control and try to motivate the banks to get them to step in and take some interest in them because the owners have walked away from them at this point," said Bill Langford, with Hillsborough County Code Enforcement.

He added, "The overall goal for us today is to reduce the detriment to the community, to make it a safe place, to actually give back some pride to this community."

Code Enforcement officers used old window coverings used during the Republican National Convention to cover county buildings, to board up the homes.

Hillsborough County Animal Control was also out in the neighborhood working today.

Lott feels good about what's happening in her community, but she knows the fight is not over.

"It doesn't take a scholar to want to live decent," she said.

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