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Police: Crime lower at complex
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Martinsville Police Officer Coretha Gravely and Deputy Police Chief Eddie Cassady said that the renovation and renaming of Rivermont Apartments, now Maplewood Apartments, has helped the complex more than just cosmetically. Both lauded efforts by Community Housing Partners to eradicate crime at the residences. (Bulletin photo)

Friday, June 13, 2014

By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The difference between Maplewood Apartments and Rivermont Apartments is like night and day, according to two Martinsville police officers.

Officer Coretha Gravely and Deputy Police Chief Eddie Cassady both were present Wednesday at a dedication ceremony for the newly christened and revitalized Maplewood Apartments, formerly known as Rivermont Apartments. The complex is at 1446 Fayette St. in Martinsville.

Gravely, who has been with the department for 23 years, and Cassady, who has 29 years of service, well remember how dangerous Rivermont used to be.

“When I first came here, we used to go answer a lot of calls at Rivermont Apartments,” Gravely said. “They had a lot of homicides, and they had a lot of drug activities.”

Officers rarely went to Rivermont alone in those days, she said.

“Most of the time when we’d go in,” she said, “we’d always have a back-up.”

One incident at the complex that particularly stuck out in Gravely’s mind, she said, was the death of a woman with whom she had gone to school.

“She was thrown through a window,” Gravely said. “Her and her boyfriend had a disagreement. No one called the police or anything. It could have prevented that; it could have saved her life. ... It was really hard.”

At the old Rivermont Apartments, Gravely said, residents often didn’t call the police to report criminal activity out of fear of reprisal. When she tried to establish a Neighborhood Watch group at the complex in the 1990s, Gravely said, no one was willing to participate.

Those days, however, are long gone, and Maplewood is a far cry from Rivermont, according to the officers.

The facility now is clean, well-maintained and attractive, Gravely said. The people living at Maplewood take pride in their homes.

And on May 15, she said, she attended Maplewood’s first Neighborhood Watch meeting.

Community Housing Partners (CHP), the nonprofit organization that purchased Rivermont and transformed it into Maplewood, has created a great relationship with the city police department, Gravely said. The building manager contacts the police if there are any issues, new tenants are strictly screened, and if tenants do not abide by the rules of the lease, they are asked to leave.

Cassady said he has been pleased to see the partnership.

“In my experience through my career,” he said, “you knew something needed to change at that area. ... This is a major change for this complex and for these units. Just to see that transformation, I was really excited about it. (CHP) took a very proactive stance on crime control in the area. They’ve been a real pleasure to work with.”

CHP has told the department that officers are free to stop by the Maplewood office any time they would like to fill out paperwork or just take a break, Gravely said.

Gravely and Cassady said the positive relationship between law enforcement and the residents of the complex is just as important as the relationship between the department and CHP.

“It’s obvious (that the residents are) taking care of it and they’re becoming active,” Cassady said. “We’re really happy for the folks that are residing there.”

Gravely spends a lot of time talking to people in the community, and she’s never met a stranger, she said. It has warmed her heart to see how much happier and safer the residents of Maplewood have felt after the revitalization of the complex.

“It builds up their self-esteem when they’ve got something that’s nice and clean,” she said. “I think that helped improve their quality of life.”

Gravely said she had a chance to speak to some of the children at the complex Wednesday.

“I told them, this is your neighborhood,” Gravely said. “You live here. You’re going to invite your friends here, your family ... and they’ll see what a nice place you live at.”

Before the revitalization, many residents told her that they were ashamed to have guests over to visit. Now, she said, they’re proud.

“This is a good success story for Martinsville,” Cassady said, “but it doesn’t limit us to just one. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere within the city.”


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