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'Vigilante Grannies' On The Patrol


Neighborhood watch programs are common. A subdivision in Stallings called Fairfield Plantation has one. But this neighborhood has something else, too. A group of crime-fighting grandmothers. They call themselves the "Vigilante Grannies." In many ways Mary Ritch (pictured) is a typical grandmother. Retired. Does embroidery. Bowls once a week. But a few months ago something set her off. "They burned our flags," Ritch says. American flags that Ritch's husband, a Korean War Veteran, had placed throughout their 200-home subdivision for Memorial Day. Someone had burned big holes in them. "And that did not make us happy," Ritch says. "So we became more vigilante." Ritch and her friends had already dubbed themselves the "Vigilante Grannies" a few weeks earlier. But that was more of a joke. After the flag burning incident they got serious. On a regular basis, Ritch goes around the neighborhood in her car looking for suspicious characters. I asked her about my car parked in front of her house. "That is a situation that, if that car stayed parked there for any length of time we would want to know if it belonged there," Ritch says. "And there could be a very legitimate reason and we're just a bunch of noisy old biddies." A strange car gets a note: "Welcome. But if you leave your car unattended again you will be towed." She tracks all license numbers online through the website site Members Login dot com. Ritch pays a $20 annual fee to access the site And it's public information and we get the tag number and who owns the car and their address and whatever," Ritch says. "My concerns would only be if they get to a point where they get out andstart trying to confront something," says Stallings police chief Michael Dummet. He says he appreciates the efforts of the grannies - there's about half dozen overall. But they're old. Dummet worries about their safety. At 59 Charmaine Nolan is the youngest of the group. She keeps a close watch on the neighborhood's park. She says she frequently confronts strangers. "I'll ask you where you live and if you can't tell me right away I know you don't live around here," Nolan says. "And if you know someone you better go get that person and bring them down here with you and then you'll be alright." The oldest member of the grannies is Mary Ritch. She's 77, and she says her age actually works to her advantage. "How would you react if your grandmother told you were doing something you shouldn't be doing? I'm 5 foot 3 and weigh 118 pounds," Ritch says. "I'm not intimidating to anyone. And you're not going to be that ugly or rude or mean to your grandmother." So far the grannies' work has led to one arrest in the neighborhood: the passenger in a strange car - who the Stallings police say had two grams of marijuana.