Pubdate: Sat, 11 Mar 2000
Source: Cincinnati Post (OH)
Copyright: 2000 The Cincinnati Post
Author: Laurel Campbell


Drugs Haunt Inner City

Both the barbers at Sweet P's Style Shop on Elm at 15th Street were
busy Friday, with customers waiting in the warm and cozy shop.

Just outside, a different kind of entrepreneur works the two blocks of
15th from Elm to Pleasant in Over-the-Rhine, tagged by Cincinnati
Police as the prime marketplace of the city's increasing heroin trade.

"We know there are overwhelming drugs in this area," said James F.
Lewis, 64, who has owned the barber shop for 25 years. "And I know
something can be done. Anything they (those in power) don't want, won't be."

Cheaper and better heroin from Colombia is fueling the dealing in
Cincinnati and across the country. Heroin-related arrests in
Cincinnati and Hamilton County soared from 19 arrests in 1990 to 464
arrests last year, said Specialist Dan Shoenfelt of the police
department's Street Corn er Unit.

Drug investigators say Over-the-Rhine heroin dealers sell $20
"bindles" of heroin - a powdered form of the drug in a folded-up piece
of paper. The powder can either be snorted or injected.

"All you have to do is walk down the street and someone will ask you
what you want," said Walt Roempp, talking about the neighborhood's
illegal drug business. "They just move from cor ner to corner."

Roempp, 73, has owned Walt's Grocery at the corner of 15th and
Pleasant for more than 40 ye ars. He misses the other legitimate
businesses that used to fill the neighborhood.

Roempp's regular customers, including men who live at the Samuel W.
Bell Home for the Sight less on Elm, call him by name when they stop
in for Cokes, cupcakes and quarts of beer. Then they wal k outside
past trash-strewn empty lots and boarded-up, faded-brick buildings
slashed with spray-painted graffiti.

Some young men linger on the block in Friday's sunshine, but obey
signs posted in several doorways warning "No sitting on steps, no loitering."

A few cars cruise the neighborhood, sometimes taking on a passenger
for a brief, block-long ride.

But the presence of Cincinnati Police Officer Jonathan Gordon,
assigned to a walking beat in Over-the-Rhine, may have deterred the
day's drug dealing. Barber shop owner Lewis would like t o see an even
larger police presence.

In the meantime, Lewis has struck a deal of sorts with the drug
dealers. While he hates what they do, he is willing to leave them
alone if they do the same for him.

"They abide by that, and we get the respect," Lewis said. "And if they
see someone else hangi ng around, they tell him to move on."

As heroin use rises, so do the number of users who seek help for their

Nationwide between 1992 and 1997, the number of Americans entering
treatment centers for hero in jumped 29 percent - from 180,000 to
232,000 - and surpassed cocaine users, according to the late st data
from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a
branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Locally, the Center for Chemical Addictions Treatment said heroin
addiction admissions have gone up slightly over the last year.

"Heroin still accounts for less than 3 percent of our admissions,"
said CCAT executive director Sandra Kuehn. 
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