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Loganville community unites against rash of arson

LOGANVILLE -- In a patchwork of Loganville subdivisions collectively called "Range Heights," the pleasantries of summer -- sprinklers, bicycles and pick-up basketball games -- are commingling with more disconcerting sights: cordoning tape, arson investigators and the scorched carcasses of homes.

On Friday afternoon, a fire caused interior damages to a one-story, corner-lot home that sits near a neighborhood entrance. Firefighters tackled it in a few minutes, sparing the home the fate of two others down the street.

Given that three arson fires had been recorded in Range Heights in the last two months, investigators were called in. Friday's fire, they quickly determined, was also "incendiary in nature," said Fire Department spokesman Lt. Colin Rhoden.

Neighbors sighed as yellow tape encircled a third property, where a family had just moved out Sunday, in this neighborhood of roughly 200 homes. The fire is serving as another reason to bring the diverse, blue-collar community together.

Rhoden said arson investigators are working to develop a suspect and have dotted crimes scenes with flyers that advertise $10,000 rewards.

"The arson flyers are working," Rhoden said. "Neighbors are helping investigators."

Two house fires in June -- in the 2400 block of Range Heights Terrace and the 3700 block of Red Rose Court -- had already been ruled arson. Neighbors said the first arson fire involved a storage building behind a house. Ironically, the neighborhood hugs a Gwinnett County fire station on Rosebud Road.

All three homes were recently vacated. Fire officials said the first two homes, which remain as piles of rubble a few yards from each other, were foreclosures.

"It's like whoever does this knows the houses are vacant, and they do this right after the (occupants) move out," said resident Fran Cooper van Allen, a nurse whose husband built their home in 1989. "We have plenty of houses that have been sitting vacant for months."

In February, to address a spate of burglaries and thefts, Cooper van Allen went door-to-door to raise enough support to found a C.O.P.S. -- Community Oriented Police Services -- program. The group has organized neighborhood walks and Saturday night porch gatherings to keep watch. They held a yard sale for fund-raising and networking. They're brainstorming ways to keep the neighborhood's roving packs of curfew-ignoring teenagers busy.

They hope the pushback will help thwart the rash of arson, too.

Chris Carella, whose split-level home faces a scorched one across the street, has installed a surveillance system, which he said caught only a flash of light when the residence sparked on June 27. Recent crimes have left his wife on edge, he said.

"It's been a great neighborhood to live in, a great working-man's neighborhood," said Carella, a resident of 19 years. "These last six months, we've been struggling for the soul of our community."

Cooper van Allen is saving up to one day buy a farm. Until then, she's ready to fight the good fight.

"If we move out and lay down and let them push us around," she said, "they're going to keep doing this crap."

Investigators ask anyone with information to contact the Gwinnett Fire Arson and Explosives Investigation Section at 678-518-4890 or the Georgia Arson Control Hotline at 1-800-282-5804.

Georgia Arson Control Inc. offers a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of arsonists.

Comments

A_Gwinnetian 1 year, 8 months ago

"They're brainstorming ways to keep the neighborhood's roving packs of curfew-ignoring teenagers busy." Really? How about prevailing upon the parents of those said teens to impose their own curfews and give consequences when their children disobey? It seems like that community has larger problems than a firebug in its midst (I hope that person is caught very quickly, though).

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ConcernedNeighbor 1 year, 8 months ago

Yes... Really -- for the exact reason you stated. There are some larger problems in this community and yes, I agree it begins with the parents. However, you can only go so far with that to be effective. Let's face it - if there wasn't already a parental problem, then the teens wouldn't be out after curfew. At least this community is trying -- we've cleaned a lot of things up. Most likely this is an action to try to send a message about the fire station being built fairly recently and the neighborhood forming the COPS program. So do you have any real ideas or did you just want to be snarky? Because right now this neighborhood could use the support.

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A_Gwinnetian 1 year, 8 months ago

I wasn't being snarky. I am disgusted with parents that do not discipline their children when they are in the wrong...it's really a form of abuse. It puts those kids at a distinct disadvantage in life as they get older. I really think that a strong communal message sent to the parents of those kids along with a very visible police presence would go a long way in encouraging better behavior by all. I've lived in all kinds of neighborhoods... wealthy and working class...and the best ones were where everyone knew each other. In those neighborhoods, there wasn't a lot of misbehavior because the kids knew that everyone had an eye on them. By the way, I am a single mother of a 17 year old boy so I am not just preaching...I practice.

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ConcernedNeighbor 1 year, 8 months ago

Really? - yes, really. For the very reason you stated - obviously there are larger problems but we're doing the best we can. I would think anyone understanding that concept would lend some good ideas or at least cheer us on in our effort to clean things up rather than add more negativity. Most likely these actions have come from us getting a Fire Department in the last couple of years and with many of us participating in the COPS program. It's not easy to do - when you're in a working class neighborhood we, well... work. And to organize the time and effort to make a better community should be commended.

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gwinnettisgreat1 1 year, 8 months ago

I blame my generation. So many in my generation don't discipline their kids because they want to be their "friend" not their parent.

Sounds like mom and dad need a reality check. Start with trying to tell junior "No" and mean it.

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proudusmomoftwo 1 year, 8 months ago

Its not just our kids, its neighboring subdivisions. They all gather here. It you try and speak to them - they run. Not all, but most are rude! We call the police and the have left once they get here.

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ChrisC 1 year, 8 months ago

As a member of the community mentioned in this article I can assure you that we bring this issue up with the parents. Unfortunately the households that do not know where their children are at 2 AM don't care what their neighbors have to say about it. So the police are called often.

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ChrisC 1 year, 8 months ago

As a resident of the above mentioned community I can tell you we have talked to parents about the teens, and have talked over options to help. But as you can imagine parents whos children roam the street at 2 AM, They don't care what we have to say. So the police are called often.

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proudusmomoftwo 1 year, 8 months ago

I lived here for 10 years! We have loved it until the past year. The neighborhood now has the eye sores of burned, abandoned homes, yards un-kept.....We have called planning and development and no one will return our calls. Our neighbor looks a mess and only a few residents seem to care. It’s frustrating!

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