Wednesday, March 10, 1999

Anti-drug fight makes a dent

After success in D.C., Avondale man leads crusade

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Drugs can chase you only so far if you are willing to fight back. That's the philosophy that Tom Jones, chairman of the Avondale Public Safety Task Force, brought to Cincinnati when he moved here six years ago.

        He was looking for a job, an opportunity to start a business and to get away from his drug-infested neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

        Mr. Jones, 54, is leading the task force on a mission of chasing drug dealers out of the Burnet Avenue Business District in Avondale.

        He owns a copying and printing business on Rockdale Avenue, a part of the business district.

        He likes Avondale, lives there and runs his business there. But he doesn't like what he sees on Burnet Ave nue and the side streets such as Rockdale.

        He said it reminds him of Washington.

        “Drug dealing was all over D.C,” he said. “But we pulled together a group and cleared it out of the district where I ran my business. After looking at Avondale, I figured if we could do it in D.C., where you could get your head blown off, why couldn't we do it in Avondale?”

        Mr. Jones began to pull together a group when he moved his business to Avondale last April after operating the Business Service Center in Roselawn.

Many lend hands
        “I was amazed at the help I received from residents, businesses, the police and city officials,” he said.

        The task force is made up of members of the Avondale Community Council; residents; local businesses; and institutions such as the Cincinnati Zoo, Children's Hospital Medical Center, the Ronald McDonald House, Allstate Insurance Co., churches, and members of the Cincinnati Neighborhood Action Strategy (CNAS) team.

        CNAS is made up of representatives of the city government's public safety, health, public works, building and inspection, and economic development departments.

        Shawn George, a District 4 police officer assigned to the area, said 216 arrests have been made, mostly on Burnet Avenue, since November. Officer George said 70 percent of the arrests were drug-related.

        “Residents are cooperating with police by identifying drug dealers and drug hangouts,” he said.

        Vince Morton, owner of Morton's Corner Discount, Rockdale and Burnet, watches the street atmosphere changing.

        “You can see the big difference since the task force was started,” he said. “You don't see as many people just standing on the corners doing nothing. ... Now that we have it started and it's being effective, the big question is, Will it continue? If the task force and the police back off, it will go right back to the way it was.”

        Mr. Jones talked of a long-range plan of taking back the neighborhood.

Money needed
        “We have recruited 700 kids to pass out literature door to door for a fund-raising drive to support the task force,” Mr. Jones said. “We have to involve the entire community in its safety and preservation.”

        He said the task force plans to raise enough money to buy three cars equipped with surveillance apparatus to be visible in the neighborhood.

        Mr. Jones is a widower and the father of one son, who manages a copying business in Washington.

        “I am glad I started a business in Avondale,” Mr. Jones said. “We don't intend to move. But we intend to drive out the drug dealers.”


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