Stacy Rush and Donald DeVore witnessed drug deals going down outside their fixer-upper almost immediately after buying it.
The couple had to clear two years worth of overgrowth and yard debris accumulated from the home sitting vacant on Lyndhurst Street, just a few blocks from a violent home invasion on Chigaco Avenue during which a victim was pistol-whipped and another stabbed in May.
It took the couple two months just to be able to get inside, Rush said. Among some of the trash found in the yard: drug needles.
None of that sat well with Rush, a former member of the U.S. Coast Guard and law enforcement.
Now, after about seven months in the house, the couple is leading a charge to take back their neighborhood by spearheading the creation of a neighborhood watch group about three weeks ago.
Rush said she wouldn't be able to live with herself if something happened to someone's child "knowing I shut my blinds and turned my head." She knows she has already agitated some people, but it needs to happen, she said.
Eight people attended the first Lyndhurst Street Neighbood Watch meeting, a good turnout, she said.
Her efforts also garnered the attention of local law enforcement.
About 10 deputies, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the mayor and other city officials, roughly 20 neighbors and law enforcement dignitaries visiting from Panama were at Rush's National Night Out cookout on Aug. 7.
The idea is to encourage neighbors to call deputies when they see something that doesn't sit right.
"You are the eyes and ears of the Sheriff's department," she said, explaining that it's OK to call deputies when they see or hear suspicious activity outside, no matter how innocuous. "At least they (the suspicious persons) know you're watching. It could make them nervous, or make them move somewhere else."
Rush says one of her neighbors has moved out because of calls she made to deputies.
She and DeVore are remodeling their home with a Key West theme. The lawn is trimmed neatly, and the big oak tree that once coverered their entire roof because of overgrowth is relegated to the backyard.
"This is our city. It's is our neighborhood. We're taking it back," she said.