Sunday, June 09, 2002

Convenience attracts N.Ky. drug buyers

At Main and McMicken, 'The drive-through's open'

By Jane Prendergast,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        There's a corner drug drive-through in Over-the-Rhine so well situated and user-friendly that Northern Kentucky buyers can drive over, get their crack or pot, and be back in the Bluegrass in under five minutes.

        The intersection of Main Street and McMicken Avenue sits just over 3 miles from Kentucky via Interstate 471. A difference in state drug laws adds to the intersection's attractiveness:

        In Ohio, people don't get arrested if caught with anything less than 100 grams of pot. They just get a “weed ticket” citation to court. In Kentucky, they can go to jail.

        That makes the spot a great place for selling drugs, which means the intersection ranks high on a list of problem spots for members of District 1's Violent Crimes Squad.

        When an unmarked police car drove up to the intersection at 10:49 p.m. Tuesday, it took less than a minute for a car with Kentucky tags to show up.

        “The drive-through's open,” says Officer Mike Brogan. “That didn't take long.”

        The officers can't see well enough to do anything this time. But they'll be back.

        Two weeks ago, the Cincinnati squad chased a man they thought they saw “serve” drugs to a Kentucky driver at the corner. The suspect jumped a fence and ran up on top of a building, where he got stuck with no way out. When Derris Conley, 23, came down, officers found $204 on him and more than 20 grams of crack in his Fritos bag.

        They didn't catch the Kentucky driver.

        “There's someone there all the time,” says Sgt. Joe Briede. “Day and night. Easy access, in and out of the city.”

        Police records don't clearly show how many Northern Kentucky drug buyers do their shopping at this Over-the-Rhine hot spot.

        For one thing, three streets intersect there, meaning officers can use several addresses on reports. And much of the enforcement is done by undercover officers, so there's no dispatch log to show uniformed officers being sent there.

        But Cincinnati officers watch the anecdotal evidence mount daily, and Kentucky officers along the I-471 corridor say people they stop often claim they bought their drugs in Over-the-Rhine.

        “I guess I never really knew if they were telling the truth or not,” said Steve Schmidt, chief in Fort Thomas, which is separated from the drug spot by just three miles of highway and the Liberty Street exit. “I guess maybe they are.”


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