Pubdate: Fri, 25 Feb 2000
Source: Tampa Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2000, The Tribune Co.
Author: George Pawlaczyk of the Tribune


When drug cops roust crack cocaine dealers on Hillsborough Avenue, Clarence
White said he knows.

``If it gets hot on Hillsborough, crack heads start showing up on our
street,'' said White, who lives on Shadowlawn Avenue in Belmont Heights.

White, 60, said his street is a relatively drug-free island in a sea of
cocaine, partially due to his stature as a well-known former high school
football coach.

``They respect me because I coached half of them,'' he said. ``When I say
leave, they leave.''

White said the drug problem in Belmont Heights is worsening and has driven
him to a new calling, getting youths to give up the drug life.

To that end he implored the Tampa City Council on Thursday to consider ways
to funnel money into education programs instead of simply making more

``We need to create a foundation of goodwill,'' he said. ``Jail is not the

White got sympathy from the council, but no immediate action.

``If we don't defend our public spaces from drug dealers, and if we don't
recognize that in some neighborhoods people are prisoners in their own
homes, all the intervention in the world is not going to make any
difference,'' said Councilman Bob Buckhorn.

White said the council still must try.

``These kids have dropped out of school and have low self-esteem,'' White
said of the dealers he regularly runs off Shadowlawn.

``But they're not dumb. They got street smarts from somewhere so they can
learn. What they need are some vocational programs.''

The current response to drug crimes in Tampa is more arrests, said Capt. Ken
Dodge, head of the Tampa Police Department narcotics division.

Dodge agreed that jail sentences will not solve the drug problem. Still, his
officers try to run suspected dealers out of problem neighborhoods, even if
it means arresting them for minor bicycle violations like not having a
headlight or not wearing a helmet.

``We encourage these people to go elsewhere. [But] I don't know where
elsewhere is,'' he said.

In response to a request from the council, Dodge gave a report on Thursday
about drug dealing and prostitution in Belmont Heights, Sulphur Springs,
West Tampa and Central Park - the Tampa neighborhoods where most drug
arrests are made.

Dodge's report showed that Belmont Heights had 800 drug investigations in
1999 leading to 321 arrests. These rates were several times higher than
those for any of the other neighborhoods.

Dodge said street police tactics include using a mapping system to track
people convicted of drug offenses.

These people can be arrested on suspicion of probation violation just for
being in any of 34 ``drug holes,'' described as any area where known drug
dealers operate. It can be a house, a street corner, an alley or just about
anywhere, Dodge said.

A street officer also can arrest a convicted dealer for probation violation
if he is spotted leaning into cars, reaching repeatedly into his pocket, or
for any other alleged drug activity.

White said these tactics do little good.

``Maybe they get one in 10. But that's no good. More take their place,'' he

Foot patrols and surveillance cameras would be welcome, White said, ``but I
think the next step has got to be to start talking about money for
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