Northwoods residents describe personal ‘Nightmares on Elm Street’

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT)–A “Nightmare on Elm Street,” that’s how some residents of the Northwoods area of Jacksonville describe the disturbing amount of violence happening in their neighborhood.

The most recent occurred when an altercation turned into a shooting on Elm Street that left one injured and a suspect on the loose.

Residents say in the last three months alone, they’ve made dozens of separate calls related to shootings, vandalism and violence.

“Once a week, it’s either a drive-by or they’re out in their yard shooting at each other,” Alisha Acevedo, a resident of the community, said.

The mother of two doesn’t even allow her kids to play outside anymore.

“It’s frustrating,” she said. “They’re good kids and it feels like we’re punishing them when we are trying to protect them.”

One of her kids’ bedroom windows faces Elm Street, causing a concern about stray bullets.

Acevedo says she believes it’s a good neighborhood, with just a few bad houses.

The violence is enough to keep resident Nicole Gonzalez up at night.

“I understand that we’re told that it’s isolated incidents between people and that it’s not just random houses being shot up, but it’s not like it’s only at 2 in the morning,” she said. “It’s in the morning, in the evening, and in the afternoon.”

Her family’s been in the area for decades and says the amount of violence has only increased.

“I feel angry at the people who are doing it and I feel angry at the people who say, ‘well I’ve been here a long time and it’s not near my house so it’s your problem’,” she said.

Gonzalez created a Facebook neighborhood watch page in June after shootings in May and a nationwide crime sting that led to arrests of gang members on Elm Street.

Jacksonville Police released a statement on Thursday saying they are actively working to catch the suspect from Wednesday’s shooting.

“We have additional patrols in the area as calls for service and manpower allow,” part of the statement reads. “Our community officer for the area along with the investigative services division is working diligently to identify and locate the suspect in this case.  We as a department cannot do this job without the help of the community.”

Jacksonville Police says it encourages residents to remain vigilant about safety and to contact them or Crime Stoppers with any tips about crime that occurs.

Acevedo counted up all of the separate 911 calls she made in September about violence. She made three calls on three different dates.

“A lot of people say, ‘Well why don’t you move? You need to move, get out of that area’,” she said. “But this is our house. This is our community. We shouldn’t have to be forced out of our house.”

That’s why she says the Facebook group and community involvement is a good idea.

“If enough people want to fight for their neighborhood, maybe they’ll finally do something about it,” she said.

Acevedo says she’d like to see cameras installed in the community and nearby biking and walking trails to keep an eye on things when officers can’t be around. Gonzalez says it’s up to the landlords to make sure violent folks aren’t moving in. She hopes they make a conscious effort to do so.

Both women encourage any other communities going through a similar situation to create their own neighborhood watch groups.

In the meantime, they won’t duck and cover. Both say they plan to stay active, work to gather information about suspects and work with police to catch them.

The suspect from Wednesday’s shooting remains on the loose. There is a $2,500 reward for any information. Contact the police department or Crime Stoppers.

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