Fairfield Plantation begins community watch programs
by Ali Drake
Fairfield Plantation residents are going out on patrol. In the Stallings community, Homeowners Association President Johnny Ritch and Secretary Mary Ritch have formed a program to combat vandalism.
“It’s a personalized version of neighborhood watch,” Mary Ritch said.
Citizens On Patrol, or COPs, is a group of residents who have taken it upon themselves to watch over the community at night. They are assisted when necessary by Stallings police officers who have intervened on behalf of the community when vandalism or vagrancy has been an issue, but, according to Mary Ritch, “the police have their hands full. Safety is the responsibility of the individual.”
Beth Cash, a resident of Fairfield Plantation with two teenage boys claims the patrolling has been effective.
“I just think it’s improved the neighborhood, “ Cash said. “There’s a lot less destruction.”
The Vigilante Grannies, a sister program founded by Mary Ritch, got its name when several grandmothers in the community pooled their efforts with the Stallings police force. They are careful to keep an eye on the neighborhood and are quick to alert the COPs, and even sometimes the police.
“We’re not perfect,” said Mary Ritch, “but we have a lot of things that we work on. Safety issues.”
Previous summers have been plagued with relatively minor acts of vandalism. The group consensus is that local teens have been behind most of the destructive acts, including moving picnic tables from their accessible location in the park to hidden hang out spots in the forest, loitering, and cutting the chain from the park fence.
“We don’t want to get anyone in trouble,” Johnny Ritch said, “but I have run some teenagers out of that park before.”Ritch has the key to the park gates and locks up every night between 9 and 10 p.m.
The neighborhood pool, park, and walking trails are all paid for and maintained by the homeowners association, through dues that each household is responsible to pay monthly or annually in order to use the private facilities. The 196 households in Fairfield Plantation have created a strong sense of community through their monthly board meetings and committees that divvy up responsibilities like their Fourth of July celebration, and the Neighborhood Welcome Committee which gives a welcome kit including a towel embroidered by hand with the words Fairfield Plantation, along with information about the rules regarding the use of the pool and park.
Residents say their community centered approach is apparently working.
“Things have been good because of the patrolling,” said Leslie Hewitt. “It’s nice to know that my kids can walk each other home and be safe.”
Both groups are hoping to get more volunteers to continue their work, “it’s a fledgling program that has potential,” Mary Ritch said.
Her husband agreed. “We’re from the old school,” Johnny Ritch added. “We believe an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We just don’t want to see kids get into trouble.”