ORANGE PARK – For the first time in months, residents in the Brighton Village subdivision weren’t afraid to use their neighborhood pool last weekend. Like hibernating animals awakening from a nightmare that never seemed to end, they slowly emerged from the sanctity of their homes to tend to their potted plants and sweep their walks without looking over their shoulders.
The boarded window and garbage in front of one unit served as an unsettling reminder how this quaint community turned into commune of fear and disgust. At the same time, it renewed their resolve to never let their homes be terrorized by drugs again.
“They don’t belong here,” said one man, who clinched his teeth while talking.
Last Thursday, the Clay County Sheriff Office’s SWAT and Organized Crime Section took some of them out in handcuffs following an early-morning raid. The rest were ordered to move by a family member of the owner who, like everyone else in the neighborhood, was tired of the mess.
“It’s terrible when neighbors are afraid to come home at night,” said Rozelle Perry, who manages the property. “This is a very charming neighborhood. We’ve had a problem with that unit for a long time. It’s a shame it took so long to get it cleaned up.”
Deputies reacted to undercover intelligence and information provided by neighbors to burst into the two-bedroom townhouse. Once inside, they found “at least a dozen” people inside. Rozelle said other neighbors counted as many as 20.
Anthony Maceda, 38, was charged with sale and delivery of methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a church; Amy Lynn Permenter, 38, was charged with possession of cocaine; Randy Casimer Johnson, 24, of Jacksonville, was charged with possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia; and, James Dean Welles, 23, was charged with possession of a controlled substance (oxymorphone).
Johnson was arrested while sitting in a car in front of the unit, while the other three were inside.
“This quiet and quaint community should never have been exposed to such dangerous behavior and our members are proud to have been able to help,” said CCSO spokesman Chris Padgett.
Sheriff deputies attached a sheet of plywood over a window broken during the raid. On the board was stenciled the phrase: “You Had Options” with a steaming cup of coffee, which has become the agency’s message in its war to rid the county of illegal drugs.
“The reality is people are fed up with this kind of activity,” Sheriff Darryl Daniels said.
James Dean Welles Jr., 4, also was inside with his mother, Jady Shannon Dow. The boy was listed as missing and endangered a day later, but Daniels said alert was the result of “miscommunication” with child protective services. The boy was found safe on Saturday in Duval County.
Perry said the entire subdivision was fed up since the other homes in that area are clean and neighbors are friendly. One unit, however, became a blight nobody could escape. And since it was near the entrance, it kept perspective homebuyers away and residents seemingly trapped.
“They were right there by the pool,” said another neighbor. “You couldn’t go to the pool. You were afraid. There were so many strange people coming and going. We know each other here. We know who’s supposed to be here, and they weren’t supposed to be here.”
Neighbors grew so concerned about the number of visitors, especially during the night, many installed cameras. Videos revealed occupants stealing items from porches, Perry said. They also were concerned by the twisted bicycles, broken furniture and trash that was every bit an eyesore as it was a hazard.
With some in jail and others back out on the street, Daniels said it’s important his agency continues to monitor the neighborhood to make sure other deviants return to fill the void.
“We have to remove that kind of activity from the neighborhood,” the sheriff said. “But it’s like putting your hand in a puddle of water. You displace some water when you do it, but eventually it calms back down. We’ve displaced [drug activity] for the moment. We will continue to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
To do that, CCSO relies heavily on the community. Information provided by neighbors is what Daniels called “On the Ground Real time Intelligence.”
“When a community has a voice, we have to take it to the conclusion,” Daniels said. “We need tips from neighbors.”
The townhouse is owned by Maceda’s family, neighbors said. Perry tried for months to rid the subdivision of the problematic occupants. She joined Sheriff’s NET and other neighborhood watch-like groups for help. And she proudly provided information to deputies.
“I got yelled at lot,” she said. “I’m thick-skinned. I could take it. They’d see me watch them and when they said something, I told them I was taking pictures, too.
“I’m just glad they’re gone.”