By Joe Johnson
When Richard Miller moved into Glenn’s Park in 2013, police responded to the trailer park 132 times to investigate reported offenses ranging from assaults to disorderly conduct.
The following year, an ATF agent shot and killed a suspect and was shot and wounded himself during an undercover operation gone wrong just outside the park’s entrance.
After Miller bought the trailer park on Winterville Road in 2016, he renamed it The Glenn Park Community. He considered the new moniker more fitting for what he had planned for the property.
That year police were called to the trailer park 76 times, a 42-percent decrease from 2013, according to statistics furnished by the Athens-Clarke County police Crime Analysis Unit.
From deterring loitering by outsiders to improving lighting and fostering a sense of trust with residents, Miller created a more neighborly environment where the crime rate steadily declined
As of this year through November, police only responded to calls at the trailer park on 36 occasions, records show. Only five of those responses involved incidents serious enough to generate reports.
“Prior to the ATF shooting, the park was not considered to be a great place to live,” said Capt. William Hood, who was zone commander for that area of east Athens while a lieutenant. “The Minit Market had several robberies and it was often suspected that suspects used the park area to get away. And complaints would come in about loitering and possible drug activity."
He acknowledged that The Glenn Park Community “has seen some improvements.”
There were only three street lights when Miller bought the park. Now there are 10 and he hopes to add more.
Miller said he and other residents regularly patrol the neighborhood and chase away loiterers who don’t belong.
“I think it has to do with more of the residents taking an interest in the place they live and also the fact I live here and people know they can come to me for whatever it is,” Miller said of fewer crimes in the neighborhood. “Most of us understand
In addition to planned neighborhood-watch patrols, residents at The Glenn Park Community are on heightened alert for unwanted suspicious activity.
Brandon Keith’s trailer is located near a wooded cut-though from a larger, neighboring trailer park.
“Sometimes I’ll see someone parked there and go up to them and ask, ‘Can I help you? Are you lost?” and they say, ‘No,’ and drive away,” Keith said.
Vigilance by residents has had its desired effect.
“Before when you saw the police here you knew something was going on,” Keith said. “Now when you see them they’re just driving by and it’s like, ‘What’s going on man?’”
Showyn Walton never thought he would live in a trailer park.
“It comes with a stigma,” the 47-year-old U.S Air Force veteran and restaurant worker said.
Walton knew Richard “Papa Bugg” Miller for many years because he was a comedian, musician and poet at Tasty World at the same time Miller produced and promoted shows and performed at the downtown Athens venue.
According to Skobba, trailer park residents tend to be people younger than 30 and between 50 and 59 years old.
“People living in mobile/manufactured homes tend to have relatively low household incomes” and is a housing choice of last resort, the professor said. “People with disabilities also make up a small portion of mobile/manufactured home occupants.”
“With Bugg I know he runs a good community,” Walton said. “He’s a genuine dude who means what he says and he says what he means, and he handles things to the best of his ability. When we moved in he said he would do certain things to the property and he got them done.”
Property owners like Miller help to de-stigmatize trailer parks as a housing choice, according to Kim Skobba, associate professor with the Housing Management and Policy Program at the University of Georgia’s College of Family and Consumer Economics.
Skobba said Miller has done the right things at The Glenn Park Community that help de-stigmatize trailer park living.
If a trailer park’s owner invests in the community by making physical improvements that improve the appearance and conditions and treating the residents with respect, they likely feel better, a greater sense of security, and perhaps more hopeful about where they live as anyone would,” the UGA professor said.
"When I found out he had this going on I wanted to be a part of it,” Walton said of the small trailer park off Winterville Road on Athens' east side.
Said Miller, “Because most of those who live in areas like this feel the owners don’t care about them, they are nothing but a paycheck. So they in turn don’t care about the place they live. Here, things are far different and it shows.”