Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brunswick Raids 5 Houses in Team Drug Crackdown

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Brunswick Raids 5 Houses in Team Drug Crackdown

Article excerpt

BRUNSWICK -- City police and building inspectors yesterday carefully picked their way through five decaying, trash-strewn houses that crack addicts have called home and authorities call prime targets for demolition under a new city program.

"We feel this will have a significant impact on the community by clearing out areas used for illegal activities," Brunswick Police Chief T.C. Cowan said while surveying the houses that contained discarded drug paraphernalia, condom wrappers, rat droppings and torn-off hunks of rotting plasterboard. Yesterday was the first of what officials with Brunswick's new Citizens Involved to Eradicate Drugs (CITED) promise are many more raids to come on dwellings used as crack houses, prostitution and gambling dens.

No arrests were made. But authorities placed condemnation notices on three dilapidated vacant houses in the 2000 block of Ellis Street and two in the 900 block of Amherst Street, including one gutted by fire about 13 years ago.

"This is fair warning to those folks who think we're playing. We're not. We're going to hit a lot more houses in the weeks to come," said Sgt. David Hines-Bey of the Brunswick Police Department and CITED coordinator.

Hines-Bey said property tax records revealed that all three Ellis Street houses are owned by a Brantley County resident. Officials have not been able to pinpoint the owners of the abandoned Amherst dwellings, he said.

CITED is a cooperative effort uniting Brunswick police, city regulatory agencies, utility companies, social services workers and residents. The program takes aim at houses and buildings used for illegal activities, including drug dealing, prostitution and gambling. It also focuses on dilapidated buildings that violate building, health or safety codes, as well as crimes including theft of utility services and property tax evasion.

Police have had the houses under surveillance for the past two weeks, and witnessed numerous apparent drug deals and people smoking crack at the sites, Hines-Bey said.

"At the Ellis Street properties, I saw a total of five individuals went into two of the houses during a two-hour period and one person smoking out on the porch," Hines-Bey said. "The Amherst houses have been used for drugs, prostitution and gambling."

A small crowd gathered to watch police act on Ellis Street.

One woman leaned over her front porch railing to holler: "About time you all come out here and done something about that mess!" as police, building inspectors and a fire marshal swarmed over the three Ellis Street houses.

"They need to tear them down," said Herbert Curry, who watched quietly from the yard of his home two doors away. "A lot of people go in there all hours of the day and night tearing things up and doing who knows what all else. It gives the whole neighborhood a bad name. …

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