More than 400 households in the Georgetown South neighborhood of Manassas, responding to a survey of their community, indicate that loitering is the biggest problem, with unsupervised children and speeding ranking second and third.
Noise, property upkeep, illegal drugs, theft and alcohol abuse also were cited among the community's top 10 problems.
The survey, sponsored by the city and the Prince William Cooperative Extension Service at the instigation of the community's citizen council, was prompted by an increase in crime and complaints about some city services in the area.
The City Council is expected to form a task force within a month to respond to the problems reported in the survey. Of the community's 864 households, 428 responded to the questionnaire.
Georgetown South, with about 2,600 residents, is described as a "community in transition" by Judy Hays, the Manassas director of social services. Built 10 years ago as a model town house development expected to attract young, upper-middle-class residents, it is now a combination of blue-collar and white-collar families, nearly half of whom rent their homes.
According to the survey, 23 percent of Georgetown South households had an average annual income of $22,000 or less, while 25 percent had an income of $35,400 or more. The typical town house sells for $45,000 to $50,000.
"Georgetown South has had problems and still has problems," said Helen Douglas, president of the area's citizen council. "But with the survey, I think we will be able to turn this community around."
Police Chief Sam Ellis said that some of the problems the neighborhood is experiencing may result from the density of the neighborhood. Also, he said that many of the town houses appear to be crowded and that outsiders coming into the neighborhood are contributing to the community's struggles.
But the chief said he is not sure what is causing the overall problems.
In the survey, developed by Virginia Tech Professor Michael Chandler, 77 percent of respondents said that loitering is a major problem, 69 percent said that speeding is rampant, and 60 percent said stealing is prevalent.
Police, fire and rescue services were generally regarded as fair to excellent by respondents. Nearly half rated the city's recreation program as poor. About 75 percent said that unsupervised children are a major problem.
The study reveals trends that have long been realities to Ellis. The variety of crime "that happens in the big city happens there," he said.
When City Manager John Cartwright came to Manassas about a year ago, one of the first items he received was mail from a resident asking that the city place police on the streets of Georgetown South every 15 minutes in the afternoon to better enforce the laws. In conversations with Ellis shortly afterward, Cartwright said, he began to form a picture of a community heading out of control.
During a one-month period in spring 1986, police responded to 413 calls in the area, Ellis said. About 135 of the cases involved domestic disputes and fights in which officers decided that they had to intervene. During the period, about 35 officers were injured, Ellis said. For a time police administrators put most of the city's officers in Georgetown South and responded to other parts of the city from there.
One year later, the numbers have changed, but not significantly, Ellis said. "You can police a place to death and still not solve the problem," he said. "Now Georgetown South has to get involved."
Cartwright, Ellis and community council president Douglas said the survey will likely provide the chance for the city's elected officials, staff and residents to work together to solve the area's problems.
"I don't think the community is lost," Cartwright said. "There are a lot of fine people out there who want to help." But he quickly warned, "This is not going to be a quick fix. We are in it for the long run."