Talk of the Town - Brownwood Park February 24 2001

A community fights crime with camaraderie

Eighteen years ago Chris Parish bought her house in the Southeast Atlanta neighborhood of Brownwood Park because it was in her price range. A range she admits "wasn't very large back then." At that time the neighborhood was on the fringes of Atlanta's urban redevelopment, and crime was still a serious problem. "At first I was afraid to go outside at night," explains Parish. Despite her security concerns, Parish loved the area's bungalows and tree-shaded streets and was committed to being a part of the community.
Parish's fears of crime have been allayed in recent years as streams of new residents have moved in and revived the area. Beth Cope moved to the neighborhood about three years ago and has had less trouble with crime in Brownwood Park than she did when she lived in an apartment in Buckhead. "In Buckhead my car was broken into several times, but here crime isn't really much of a concern." Cope thinks that part of the neighborhood's feeling of security stems from the close-knit community. "We have a very extensive neighborhood watch and everyone is active in keeping the neighborhood safe."
The neighborhood watch is just one way residents are involved in the neighborhood. According to Parish, the neighborhood association used to consist of the "same 10 people looking at each other." But now she says it is not unusual to have 60 or 70 people at a meeting. It's not just official neighborhood functions that draw residents. Cope and her husband often host porch parties on the wide porch of their 1920s bungalow. All the neighbors are invited and they stop by in droves. "It was originally just a small gathering," says Cope, "but it has blossomed into something larger."
Cope, who grew up in the suburbs, says she never imagined a neighborhood could have such community spirit. "Before moving to Brownwood Park, I never knew places like this existed," she says. She is continually amazed at the diversity of the neighborhood, which is home to blacks, whites, gays and straights. Cope also enjoys the unpretentious feel of the neighborhood. "I never feel like I'm keeping up with the Jones," says Cope. "Everyone here is wonderful."

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