COVINGTON - It's a new day at Heritage Park apartment complex. Residents, management and law enforcement are mobilizing to demonstrate that they are "Bringing Pride Back to the Heritage."
That's the name of an event set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday that will involve all three of those stakeholders.
According to Lt. Philip Bradford of the Covington/Newton County Special Investigation Unit, the apartments, off Ga. Highway 36, are under new management and they have contacted law enforcement, expressing their desire to "clean up" the complex.
"We've probably arrested eight to 10 people down there for drugs in our operations, but probably only two of them actually live there," he said. "Everybody would come there to sell drugs and then return to their home."
Bradford said under former management the complex was a haven for drug dealers, leaving the residents there to live in fear.
"There are lots of good people who live there, and we want to work with them to try to get that community back under control from the bad element and make it a nice place to live again," Bradford said.
He said Covington Police Department Capt. Willie Davis, who is the commander for the Community Outreach Unit, has had several meetings with the management and residents. Saturday, they all are going to join together for a cookout and celebration of enacting a new set of rules and guidelines to make the complex a better and safer place to live.
"We just want to show our commitment to them, as well as show them we're there for them," Bradford said. "The police will be cooking out on the grill that day and serving the citizens lunch."
Manager Kathy Baker of HSI Management of Atlanta, which took over the complex in April, said her office is totally committed to bringing the community back.
"We're going to be enforcing rules that should have been enforced all along," she said, adding that one of the biggest problems was loitering by those who did not live at the complex in the breezeways between apartments.
"We've let everyone know that breezeways are for coming and going. That's it."
Baker said the first time she visited the complex at night she was appalled.
"I thought I was at Freaknik," she said, referring to a celebration that was held in downtown Atlanta several years ago until it got out of hand. "I could not believe it. I couldn't."
She said the most opposition they've encountered to the no-loitering policy has come from those who were behind on their rent.
"We've just told them to get out of the breezeway and get a job," she said, adding that she recently filed more than 30 eviction notices with Magistrate Court. "It's really a nice property and we can't let it go down."
Baker said her management group is committed to the success of Saturday's celebration.
"We wanted to introduce ourselves to the community and let the people know that we want the same things they want. We want a safe community, and we want to work hand-in-hand with local law enforcement to achieve that," she said.
Resident Santresa Perry is the volunteer activity director for the complex and Baker said she is making a big difference among the youngsters.
Perry held an after-school group during the school year and during the summer she will be working with young children, as well as older kids who tend to become destructive if they aren't kept active.
"This will enable them to be in constructive play instead of tearing up property," Baker said. "There's a lot of damage to the outside of the buildings just because the children don't have anything to do. She was willing to help us keep the kids off the streets and out of the breezeways."
Saturday's menu will include grilled hot dogs with all the trimmings and an assortment of activities and games for youngsters, including face painting and a Moon Walk.
Barbara Knowles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.