Friday, February 23, 2001

Covington faces drug trade

Police, residents hope arrests send message

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Drug agents arrived Thursday at two Covington neighborhoods where crack and cops are familiar sights.

        Residents of Banklick Street watched Thursday afternoon as officers with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration helped police arrest 25 people. Another 13 still were being sought.

[photo] Virginia Sundstrom, here with her dog Baby, says drug deals are common on Banklick Street
(Brandi Stafford photo)
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        “It's sending a message, a big message,” said Lt. Col. Jim Liles, spokesman for the Covington Police Department. “Especially with this many arrests.”

        Neighbors aren't so sure. But they hope he's right.

        Some described how they watch certain houses on the street and see quick, drive-by transactions.

        “In the summer, you'll see them standing on street corners,” said Virginia Sundstrom, who stood outside with her dog, Baby, while DEA agents and Covington police officers checked out a house five doors down. “You know what they're doing.”

        Residents have tried to help. They successfully lobbied the city in 1998 to make part of the street one-way, something they hoped would cut down on drivers' ability to keep circling the block. It has helped, neighbors said.

        Curbing the drug trade in neighborhoods is particularly important because drugs promote other problems, such as violence and gang activity, officials say. Attacking all three is the mission of the FBI's Safe Streets Task Force, which also orchestrated some of the arrests.

        Other arrests took place on the city's east side, another neighborhood troubled for years by drugs, gangs and violence, officials say.

        “The drug problem is an ongoing problem,” Lt. Col. Liles said. “And we will continue to work on clearing up the gangs and violence associated with the drug trade.”

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