Sunday, May 18, 2003

Drug dealers ticked off by complaints

I'm worried about the Martin brothers.Monsanta Martin is a Kennedy Heights chemical lab technician who in recent weeks has been videotaping disruptive activity in his neighborhood - activity that, he says, includes drug dealing, prostitution and fighting.

His camera work has angered some men in his neighborhood. They've threatened him several times.

Martin also has ticked off police because of his complaints about their response to him. He even complained to City Council and was featured recently on a TV news segment.

After the TV spot aired, more neighborhood men came to his house and warned him to stop. His camera was on and recorded the vague but intimidating conversation.

One man who professed to be a "good man" flipped Mr. Martin the bird and walked away as a school bus dropped children off nearby.

Be careful out there

I can't blame Martin for kicking up a storm. He has children and owns a home that has been in his family for more than 40 years. It's a nice house with rose bushes, a lush lawn and burglar bars.

The bars came after a neighbor burglarized the home late last year. Police arrested and charged the thief, but Martin still feels unsafe.

After all, this time two years ago, teenagers firebombed the grocery store at the corner.

And regular crowds continue to gather on both ends of his street many nights. Videos have captured their loud carousing at all hours. One shows several men taunting a police officer.

"I'm not a man who hates police," Martin says.

"I have the utmost respect for police. I appreciate and value the job they're doing.

"But I've also been told to be careful how you complain."

Martin's complaints have reached Capt. Mike Cureton, commander of District 2. Cureton says his officers are putting forth the "maximum effort" to stem drug activity in that area. In fact, drug arrests in District 2 are up 36 percent over this time last year.

But officers who investigated threats against Martin met with a lack of cooperation, Cureton says.

"That's how we hit brick walls," he says.

Martin says he balked at putting his phone number and Social Security number on the complaint form. He didn't want the two men who made the threats getting that information.

Sounds reasonable.

Witness intimidation

Just last year Martin's brother, Enrico Martin, complained to police in Roselawn about a man shooting into the air.

Police arrested the man with the gun and drugs on him. But the next day he was out on bail and followed Enrico Martin in his car.

Enrico Martin says the man tried three times to force Martin's van off of the road. He yelled at Martin, "You'd better get some insurance. ... You're a dead man," according to court documents.

Enrico Martin got a protection order, but the man was soon charged with violating it. His defense attorney subpoenaed Enrico Martin, his neighbors, even his fiance's relatives.

Eventually, the man pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, but he still faces drug charges.

Enrico Martin says he still sees the man and still hears shots fired on his street, most recently Thursday night. Recently, Enrico Martin bought a gun.

Monsanta Martin says he still encounters the men who threatened him, too. Tuesday night, one blocked his driveway, preventing him from parking.

Monsanta says he's not confident police would help.

"The police don't make good on their promises, but drug dealers do," he said.

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