Eerie calm follows drug-raiding storm on East Oliver Street

October 19, 1991|By M. Dion Thompson

Perhaps the bicyclist riding through the 1700 block of East Oliver Street yesterday said it best: "Quiet around here on this home front. Kinda like it like that."

Thursday night, the street was overrun with police officers and federal agents who swept into the area to shut down a drug ring suspected of using juveniles to help sell an estimated $1 million worth of cocaine each year.

Yesterday, in the neighborhood of two-story row houses, many of which are vacant, the streets were eerily quiet. And the stoops -- those perfect places for sitting in the sun on a clear, autumn day when the temperature hit 80 degrees -- were empty.

Even the drug enforcement unit at the Eastern District police station had barely a call from the neighborhood.

"Usually we get call after call for that area, and today, maybe one or two calls came in for drug dealing," said Sgt. John Sieracki. "We're not naive enough to think we stopped it all, but we feel we did a good job down there and made and impact."

Indeed, there was no sign of the open drug dealing that had attracted the police. Though some houses were still operating as drug markets, the hustle and bustle was gone.

Anthony Jones, 18, the alleged head of the drug organization, remained in custody on $5 million bail, awaiting a bail review hearing scheduled for Monday morning. On the streets where he allegedly plied his trade, people talked about what had happened, debated how long the effects would last. They talked freely, except when asked their names.

"One thing you have to learn about a drug neighborhood," said one young man on Regester Street. "People will tell you all about what's happening, but when it comes to giving names, people are very reluctant."

Around the corner on East Oliver Street, a mother sitting on her stoop said the police did a good thing Thursday night, though it was too soon to know how long the peace would last. In all, 18 people -- 11 of them juveniles -- were arrested by Eastern District narcotics officers in the raids Thursday night. Another was arrested early yesterday. All are being held pending bail review.

"It's only been one day since they've been gone, but it was terrible around here," she said, declining to give her name. "It's a shame that people won't want to talk, but when they threaten you and all. I've got two kids."

A block away, in the 1700 block of Federal Street, the Rutland Recreation Center was crowded. Children and adults strolled easily through the former elementary school. They had gathered to hold a funeral service for Carl "Mighty Fine" Vandrus, a homeless man whom the neighborhood had adopted. Donald Baylor, the center's director, said he had no problem with Thursday's police action.

"I'm going to say I'm happy it happened, but it didn't happen soon enough," he said. "The drugs and the hanging out, the job has just started. The work has just begun. They hit two streets of 20 to 30 we have around here.

"The problem out there is an existing one and we're going to have to keep coping with it. They made the bust last night, but the trouble is still here," Mr. Baylor said.

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