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Huntsville community addresses crime ‘lighting up Zierdt Road’

HUNTSVILLE — A barrage of complaints and concerns from residents about the increase in crime and acts of violence at Sunlake at Edgewater Apartments in Huntsville prompted a Neighborhood Watch information meeting Monday night.

The complex, managed by TIBS Realty Co., sits on Lady Anne Lake off Zierdt Road. There have been three homicides since January 2020, including one this year. News reports indicate it may have been a random shooting, but the perpetrator has not been caught.

Several dozen residents packed the Sunlake clubhouse, filling the room to overflow.

Two community relations officers and two courtesy officers from Huntsville’s West Precinct joined Scott Fuller, vice president of the Huntsville Community Watch Association, with information to establish a Neighborhood Watch program.

Neighborhood Watch is a crime prevention program that enlists residents to actively participate in a non-confrontational but watchful approach to protecting one’s own neighborhood.

There are about 120 Neighborhood Watch programs in Huntsville.

The officers and Fuller discussed the dos and don’ts of a Neighborhood Watch and provided residents with a plethora of literature.

While most residents seemed agreeable to forming the watchdog group and several volunteers stepped up to lead the effort, some residents voiced a need to hear from apartment management what they are going to do to help keep their residents safe.

In addition to the violence, residents have recently received text alerts from management about automotive theft, vandalism, and an attempted daytime carjacking in the parking lot.

Other residents reported an increase in disorderly acts such as stealing empty water service bottles; kids banging on doors in the middle of the night and running away; and  random gunshots.

Property Manager Felecia White said she sent out alerts recently about reports of missing lug nuts on resident cars. It was only after further assessing the damage that she was shocked at how many cars got hit.

“Since you brought it up,” said CRO Micah Alexander. “They’re lighting it up … I’m not trying to frighten anybody, but being honest – they are lighting up Zierdt Road right now…”

What does that mean, “lighting up Zierdt Road,” someone asked. And who is “they?”

“That is our problem,” Alexander said. “Remain vigilant, be aware of your surroundings, that is what I am telling you.”

On a more encouraging note, he said the police have set up details in the area to try and catch people who are committing vandalism and other crimes.

Some residents believed the meeting should have included a broader discussion about what steps Sunlake is taking to help make their residents safer.

“Is Sunlake doing anything to improve security?” one male resident asked.

The complex, White said, is looking at adding gates and more lighting.

The gates will take some time, she said, because several logistics involving police and fire, and postal service access have to be worked out.

White was adamant however that plainclothes police officers watch the property on a regular basis.

“Residents will not see them because they are out of uniform, but they are there,” she said. “And they stop stuff from happening all the time.”

Many residents seemed inspired by management supporting the installation of their own surveillance Ring-type cameras on their doors and patios. Another resident demonstrated a solar powered movement detector she puts on her outdoor screens that light up when someone is nearby.

Several logistical issues for the HPD came to light during Monday’s discussions as well.

Currently, the West Precinct, Huntsville’s closet precinct and the one that services the Zierdt Road neighborhoods, is on Clinton Avenue in downtown Huntsville, a significant distance from the community they serve.

The distance and limited manpower available are often a challenge for the HPD, although the Madison Police Department sometimes responds to west Huntsville calls if they are nearby.

The meeting concluded with a call for people to never hesitate to report incidents and suspicious activity, even if it is anonymously.

Residents should call 911 for an emergency, or 256-722-7100 to reach the police department to report a non-emergency event.

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