Tuesday, February 20, 2001

Bar's neighbors provided drug tips

Reports led to probe in Covington

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — In the wake of Greater Cincinnati's first major OxyContin bust, neighbors near the site of the raid said they've known for months that something was up at Larry's All-American Cafe.

        People drove by slowly. They let their cars idle while they ran quickly in and out of the pub. Syringes — and sometimes even money — have been seen lying in the street. The same people loitered almost daily at the stop sign on the corner of Ninth and Philadelphia.

  • 'Pain drug becomes heroin of the Midwest'
        It was neighbors' reports of these activities that led to the four-month investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and the Covington Police Department.

        While investigators shed light on the weekend raid, bar patrons Monday had nothing to say as they watched reruns of the crash that killed Dale Earnhardt in the Daytona 500. Neighbors, though reluctant to give their names, said they were glad about the arrests.

        “I used to like to walk at lunchtime,” said Connie Birkley, an employee at Knochelmann Heating, Air and Plumbing across the street.

        “Not now. No thank you. You don't know what's going on but it's just real uncomfortable all the time.”

        Lt. Col. Jim Liles of the Covington Police Department said neighbors com plained about a lot of slow traffic and people quickly coming and going, not staying for a drink.

        “The (Covington) department and the DEA task force started doing surveillance and making buys,” he said.

        On Saturday morning investigators conducted a search of the bar and arrested a Covington man on charges of organized crime and trafficking related to the sale of OxyContin. Six others were arrested at their homes or elsewhere. Another suspect is being sought.

        Larry's All-American Cafe has been the police department's focus in the crackdown on the sale and use of OxyContin because that's the only area from which authorities say they've received complaints.

        The Northern Kentucky bust comes on the heels of another federal bust in eastern Kentucky this month in which 200 people were indicted. The drug, which is a relatively new painkiller developed in the 1990s, helps cancer and other patients treat their chronic pain.

        Covington Mayor Butch Callery said the City Commission will not speak at its meeting tonight specifically about the raid. He did indicate, though, that when people are convicted in such a raid, the city can act to revoke a business's liquor license.

        He would not say whether the city was headed in that direction.

        The area around Ninth and Philadelphia streets has people who have lived there for years, young professionals fixing up homes and rental property owned by absentee landlords.

        One of the goals of the new City Commission may help rid Covington of blight in some areas: to force absentee owners to meet building codes or acquire structures that have been abandoned.

        The commission has discussed hiring an additional attorney, who would work only to acquire vacant property.

        “We want to send out the message that the city of Covington is not going to put up with that stuff anymore,” Mr. Callery said.

Alliance restricting OxyContin

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