Forest Heights residents say no more violence

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - By Krystal Allan – bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Their message is simple and direct: No more violence.  Residents of Gulfport's Forest Heights community are remaining vigilant in their stance after a drive-by shooting Monday night.

Two men were shot and taken to the hospital, but later released. One man, 18-year-old, J'Var Vontou Pope, has been arrested and is being held on a $200,000 bond at the Harrison County Detention Center. Police say the shooting is likely related to similar crimes in the neighborhood over the past month. They expect more arrests to come as the investigation continues on Monday night's shooting.

Despite recent events, residents say they are determined not to let them overshadow what the neighborhood is striving to become.

Theresa Arnold, or Ms. T. as she known, was among the first homeowners to move into Forest Heights some 40 years ago.

"I do hope they take care of the place as we always did for 40 something years. We took care of it," Arnold said.

And many do take pride in their neatly-kept properties and manicured lawns.  But, residents say keeping up the community goes far beyond its physical upkeep.

"There's a saying, 'if you see something say something.' When you see things going wrong, don't be afraid to step up and say something. Don't be afraid to encourage someone doing wrong that there's a better way," said Sheredia Marshall who grew up in Forest Heights.

Witnesses say those involved in Monday night's shooting were not from Forest Heights. But, residents say those who do live in the neighborhood have to send a stronger message that such violence won't be tolerated.

"Basically, we're just not going to have that. We gotta do the right thing. Everybody got to be for right," said Forest Heights homeowner Jerry Bridges.

The president of the homeowner's association, Mary Spinks-Thigpen said residents have been working to keep the community on the right track through various programs. Currently, a large-scale beautification effort is underway. And the community isn't just tending to mulch.  It's also working to mold minds as part of its ACT and college prep program for area youth.

And when it comes to stopping crime, Thigpen said the community is ready and willing to partner with the Gulfport Police Department's community watch program.

"The meeting on Thursday at 6pm at Isaiah Fredericks is extremely important for homeowners and those who care about this community," Thigpen said.

The Isaiah Fredericks Community Center is located at 3312 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. in Gulfport.  Councilwoman Ella Holmes-Hines, the Forest Heights Homeowners Association and representatives with the Gulfport Police Department's community watch program will be on hand for the meeting.

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