Tonya Parker can recall a time a few decades back when North Charleston’s Dorchester-Waylyn neighborhood was a stable, tight-knit place full of hard-working military families.
But these days, gunfire echoes in the night and those same street corners where Parker grew up are often filled with hardened young thugs packing guns and slinging drugs. It’s gotten so bad, she said, one elderly neighbor is afraid to step outside to get her newspaper.
“Back in the day, you would get in a fight with someone and you’d be friends again the next day,” Parker said. “Now, you get in a fight and the next day, you are killed. It’s sad.”
Hoping to change that dynamic, Parker joined a group of concerned citizens and clergy Monday in an effort to rally residents to fight guns and drugs in Dorchester-Waylyn, where a young man was killed last week.
The coalition, known as “People United To Take Back Our Community,” wants to hold regular walks through the neighborhood, film people buying drugs and work with residents to take back the streets. They also want the state to boost penalties for illegal gun possession and investigate why so many handguns end up in the neighborhood.
Local activist James Johnson said residents have told him teenagers can get their hands on 9 mm pistols for as little as $40. Others told him they hear gunfire nightly.
Johnson said the coalition hopes to galvanize support at a community meeting planned for some time next week at the old Brentwood Middle School.
“We know if we don’t do something, it is only going to get worse,” he said.
The group held a news conference outside a Saratoga Road home where a 23-year-old man was shot to death Thursday. Speakers stood near a makeshift memorial of candles, flowers and stuffed animals.
North Charleston police have said the shooting might have stemmed from a prior altercation between the victim and the man charged with his murder.
Not far away, another man, 22, was gunned down that same day outside Charley O’s nightclub at 4224 Dorchester Road.
Some 26 gun-related incidents were reported in the neighborhood in the past year, including four shootings, five robberies and several reports of gunfire, according to police records.
Pastor Thomas Dixon said the coalition wants to work closely with law enforcement and show residents they are committed to change. “We are here for the long haul,” he said.
North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor said members of the coalition recently met with Police Chief Eddie Driggers, and police are interested in talking more “about how we can come together to further their goal.”
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556 or Twitter.com/glennsmith5.
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