Selmont takes a stand

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 24, 2003

Vincent Grizanti didn’t mind when the 14-, 15- and 16-year-old youths who regularly roam his Old Montgomery Highway neighborhood began stealing pears from his tree.

He bit his tongue when they continued to hop his fence and come onto his property without permission.

When he came home one day to find that they’d had a &uot;snowball fight&uot; with the rotting pears that had fallen to the ground, he wrote it off to youthful exuberance and got out his shovel to clean up the mess. &uot;This place looked like a garbage dump,&uot; he shrugs.

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The 6-foot2, 286-pound Grizanti even held his temper the day he came home from church to find several of the youths on his roof, conducting yet another battle-royal and turning the ground slick with rotten pears.

But when they threatened to burn down his home if he dared to call the police, Grizanti drew the line.

Not many people connect pears with the problems of juvenile delinquency &045;&045; or worse.

But, Grizanti’s pear trees have been the catalyst for threats of property damage and personal harm to him and his neighbors.

Grizanti lives in Selmont, near the intersection of Old Montgomery Highway and Wrenwood.

The lawns of the houses in the area are well tended, and the homeowners obviously take pride in their neighborhood.

They also stick together. When Grizanti’s neighbors witnessed his latest confrontation with the teen-agers, they didn’t hesitate. They grabbed their shovels and came to his aid. This is their neighborhood, too.

Grizanti is the owner of two pear trees planted in his backyard, of the variety commonly known as &uot;canning&uot; pears. Like his neighbors, he has a low chain link fence surrounding his property.

For the second time, the pear trees have created an opportunity for delinquency, as teen-agers in the area have used them to wage mock battles up and down the street.

The first time he exchanged words with the minors, and explained to them they could have all they wanted when they ripened.

Grizanti, a retired correctional officer for the state of Florida, has seen some rough kids in his time. He insists he has no desire to see any of these kids go to jail, but he does believe the parents should bear more responsibility for them.

That goodwill was tested during the second incident, on Aug. 18. Grizanti came home to find the teen-agers on his roof. After arguing with them, they threatened to burn his house down.

His neighbors witnessed the incident, and helped him run the kids off on both occasions.

Norman Meister, Collins Barley and Marzette Motley all live along the same street, a short walk from Grizanti’s home.

The first time the kids started fighting with pears, Barley and Motley both exchanged words with them.

Barley helped Grizanti clean up his pears and provided backup for the exchange. &uot;I just took my shovel down there in case any of them wanted to whup me,&uot; he says.

Motley recalls another incident in which the youths upgraded from pears to rocks, which they were tossing in close proximity to his truck. &uot;If they break my glass I’m going to make ’em pay for it,&uot; he says.

Meister says he believes the incident is evidence of a gradual change in his neighborhood. A resident of the area since 1970, he’s watched as the area slowly deteriorated. &uot;It’s completely changed,&uot; he says.

Grizanti says pear fights aren’t the only problem in his neighborhood.

Grizanti also owns property on Landsend, the next street over from Wrenwood. He says that after he moved to stop the house from being used to sell drugs, it was burned down by arsonists.

Grizanti says he doesn’t want much and neither do his neighbors. &uot;I’d like to have this stuff cut off,&uot; he says. &uot;I just want some peace and quiet.&uot;

Grizanti says he has called the Selma Police Department after each incident. After the last incident, when his home was threatened, Grizanti says a single police officer, who he describes as passive, appeared, took a report and left.

Grizanti says he wants to see more patrols in the area, and maybe even a police sub-station.

According to Lt. David Evans, the department does patrol the area. Evans refuses to comment on the frequency of patrols, but says Grizanti could request increased patrols.

Evans points out that police have trouble prosecuting criminal mischief cases because unless the crime is committed in an officer’s presence, he can’t make an arrest.

According to Dallas County Sheriff Harris Huffman Jr., his department does not routinely respond to incidents within the city limits and police jurisdiction unless requested by police.

Grizanti and his neighbors feel slighted.

Grizanti and his neighbors say they fear that if something isn’t done soon, the problem could get out of hand.

Grizanti insists he doesn’t want that to happen. &uot;If I have to, I’ll cut the pear trees,&uot; he says. &uot;These kids mean more to me than pear trees.&uot;

For now, he plans to arm himself with a video camera to document the behavior and identity of his tormentors. &uot;When they threatened me they got a war, and I’ll go to war with them. But I’m not going to jail for a 15-, 16-year-old kid,&uot; he says.

Barley agrees. &uot;We got to get this community thing going, so we can get our shovels and run them back to where they came from.&uot;

Motley considers the situation in his taciturn manner, then adds, &uot;There’s something about them pears.&uot;