Pubdate: Thu, 16 May 2002
Source: Inquirer (PA)
Copyright: 2002 Philadelphia Newspapers Inc
Author: Zlati Meyer, Inquirer Suburban Staff


BRISTOL TOWNSHIP - Several 24-by-30-inch "one way" signs are the latest 
weapons that the local police department is hoping to employ in the 
perpetual war against drugs in the hardscrabble Bloomsdale-Fleetwing 

The township's council is scheduled to vote tonight whether to make streets 
in the small community one-way in an effort to limit the ways potential 
drug-buying motorists can get into, and out of, the area. Created in the 
1970s, the school of thought called Crime Prevention Through Environmental 
Design, CPTED (SEHP-ted) for short, preaches utilizing urban-planning 
applications to reduce law-breaking.

In the central Bristol cube where streets are named for old warplanes, 
police have made 296 arrests over the last three years, township Police Lt. 
Terry Hughes said. Forty-four percent were for narcotics, and the rest were 
for crimes that were "an offshoot of narcotics," Hughes said.

A pimple on the west side of Green Lane, Bloomsdale-Fleetwing is less than 
a mile from the Pennsylvania Turnpike's Bristol exit. Its crime numbers 
could jump if Philadelphia's new Operation Safe Streets pushes crime its way.

If the proposal passes, Airacobra Street would be one-way southbound, 
Liberator Street would go only northbound between Fleetwing Drive and 
Mitchell Road, and traffic on Mitchell Road would be redirected west 
between Bloomsdale Road and Fleetwing Drive. The changes would take about 
30 days to institute.

"It will help us enforce the loitering laws, the noise laws, the drug laws, 
because outsiders are going to come in and we can position ourselves at one 
location and observe who's coming in," Police Chief James McAndrew said. 
"It'll be a better handle on who's buying drugs. It's best known as an area 
for street dealing, for people driving through and just purchasing drugs 
from people on the street."

Four township police officers are needed to monitor the community, but with 
one-way streets, that number would be slashed in half, McAndrew said. Less 
manpower means a leaner police budget.

"Nonresident drug users, commuter drug users like easy in and easy out, 
like McDonald's - go, place your order and get out," said George Rengert, a 
Temple University criminal justice professor who studies the geography of 
crime. "Police are making it more difficult to go in and out."

Other CPTED methods employed by drug-infested communities across the 
country are forcing the traffic to stream away from main drug-sales areas 
and erecting concrete barriers to block entry. The latter, however, has 
caused an outcry from emergency workers concerned about access to those areas.

"People come from all over the place, from Jersey, from Philadelphia," said 
McAndrew, pointing in particular to Philadelphia's Operation Safe Streets 
program. "My biggest fear is that since people are not able to buy drugs in 
Philadelphia, they're going to come [here]. Word spreads pretty quickly in 
drug culture."

His concern is validated by research. A Rengert study found that density of 
drug-sales arrests was much higher around I-95 exits.

"We find if a place becomes known as a place to buy drugs and is close to a 
highway, then there's easy access to a wider range of potential drug 
users," the Temple criminologist said. "People will be coming by automobile 
and larger distances, so it's a larger market."

He also pointed out that suburbanites themselves make use of local 
narcotics bazaars.

But some Bloomsdale-Fleetwing residents remain unconvinced.

"They tried for years to stop it," said 33-year-old Liberator Street 
resident Sandy Wilson, herself a former cocaine addict. "I don't think it's 
going to make a difference."

Agreed Isaac Oliver Jr., 80, of Fleetwing Drive: "It's not going to help 
with things."

The retired construction worker, concerned about putting extra mileage on 
his turquoise Ford truck, also complained that the rejiggered traffic flow 
would inconvenience law-abiding residents.

"It's a bad idea," he said. "I live here. When I get ready to go, I can't 
leave here. I've got to go down and down."
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