In addition to using a full range of conventional tactics to combat drug corners, the Chatham Savannah Counter Narcotics Team conducts a comprehensive "inventory" of those persons who frequent known drug corners. At first look, this inventory may seem to be a standard field interview process, but it is carried to a different level by the intensity and frequency of the inventory and the attending follow-up activity.
Street corner, open air drug locations are often difficult to suppress because no matter how many arrests occur on the corner, new dealers will appear to sell to customers who come to buy. The new dealers are often street wise and have learned through past arrests (of themselves or others) how to protect themselves from future arrests. Often, persons frequenting the corners contend that they are engaging in a form of socialization that has existed in the inner city for years and that pre-dates drug corners.
Suppression and disestablishment of drug corners by inventorying individuals on the corner is conducted in the following manner:
Specific drug corners are identified prior to approaching the corner. This is done by citizen complaints, previous arrests at that location, etc. Pre-selecting the corners tends to negate the complaint that the police stopped at a particular location because a group of individuals is on the corner.
The corners are repeatedly visited by the police at random times of the day and week. Police explain to individuals on the corners that the corner is the focus of complaints and arrests related to drug activity. It is further explained that under existing state law and City ordinance, individuals who frequent the corner could be subject to arrest. A comprehensive field interview is then conducted. This interview is videotaped. The information received (e.g., addresses and phone numbers given) is then verified. An individual is not required to talk to the police, but very few refuse.
Often, arrests occur because an individual will be found to have an outstanding warrant on him. Sometimes, individuals are arrested because they are observed attempting to discard illegal substances. Most often, individuals are identified and not arrested. They are left with the knowledge that they have lost their anonymity and would be less likely to avoid arrest should they be involved in illegal activity at that location.
This information is put into intelligence files and exists as a source of information on potential drug dealers, witnesses to illegal drug sales, assaults, or other criminal activity at that location. When conducting the inventory in concert with other activities (e.g., buy busts, reverses, etc.) the result is the disestablishment of that corner as an open air market. It has also been noted that those persons who have been documented as standing on a drug corner usinfg the above-described technique often cease frequenting that corner.
Contact: Office of the Mayor, (912) 651-6444
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright ©1996, U.S. Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.