Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Small Town Has Big Drug Problem

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Small Town Has Big Drug Problem

Article excerpt

Byline: Mark Woods, Times-Union columnist

CRESCENT CITY -- When you hear the words "international drug ring," you don't exactly picture this place.

You imagine big, sprawling cities with ports and airports, a concrete landscape full of lots of people and lots of places to hide. Not this. Not 1.82 square miles tucked alongside a picturesque lake in the middle of Florida. Not a small town where huge, old oak trees are decorated with giant yellow ribbons bearing the names of local soldiers. Not a place where even the official population conjures images of old-fashioned America: 1,776.

You drive into town, passing handmade signs -- "boiled p-nuts," "red worms 4 sale," "oranges u pick em" -- and see more Mayberry RFD than Miami Vice.

"Welcome to Crescent City," says the official sign on U.S. 17. "Bass Capital of the World."

This is the destination for drugs smuggled from Mexico to Texas to Florida? This town was full of people selling cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine? This is why a yearlong multi-agency investigation, which led to the arrests of 42 people last week, was dubbed "Operation Crescent Moon"?

The day after a series of raids, the women at "Compliments and More" Hair Salon burst into laughter when you walk in and ask your question.

"Was it a surprise?" Terry Beatty said. "Not to us."

"Our schools are full of drugs," Dianna Boyles said.

"You don't get away from crime by coming to little ol' Crescent City," said Sandy Brunetto, owner of the beauty salon for 30 years. "Every bank in this town has been robbed at least twice."

That might be an exaggeration, but drugs and all the problems that come with them certainly don't disappear when you leave Duval County and head south on U.S. 17. The Palatka Daily News ran an editorial last week with a headline that said, "Prostitution, drugs problem for everyone. …

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