Pubdate: Fri, 30 Jul 2004
Source: Cincinnati Post (OH)
Copyright: 2004 The Cincinnati Post


In 1996 a handsome brick bell tower was erected at the intersection of
Liberty Street and Reading Road in Over-the-Rhine, near the access
ramps to interstates 71 and 471.

It was the first in a series of gateways aimed at dressing up the
approaches to downtown Cincinnati -- and it worked. The Over-the-Rhine
tower and its small plaza does indeed send a visual signal that the
city has cleaned up its act and is open for business.

At this particular location, alas, the wrong kind of business took
over. Police and residents say the streets west and south of the bell
tower became an open air, drive-through drug market made popular by
quick and easy access to the interstates.

The other day, with the blessing of community leaders and businesses
in the Pendleton section of Over-the-Rhine, the city put up barricades
across 13th Street, which cuts into Reading Road near Liberty. If
nothing else, the barricades will force drug customers to drive a
little deeper into town to find their suppliers.

This move, while desperate, is justified, and we hope it gives relief
to a section of Over-the-Rhine that is on the verge of a big
turnaround. But blocking off a street isn't enough, just like it's not
enough to board up abandoned houses used by junkies and drug dealers.
If Pendleton, or any other part of Over-the-Rhine, is going to make it
as a desirable place to live and work and play, police have to go
after the drug dealers and their customers. Yes, police say courts put
drug offenders back on the streets as fast as officers haul them into
jail. Yes, civil libertarians say drug laws don't make sense and are
unfair to poor people.

But until this society is willing to countenance the sale and use of
addictive, debilitating drugs, the laws against the sale and use of
crack cocaine, heroin and the like will -- and should -- stay on the
books. And as long as those drugs are illegal, the laws prohibiting
them must be enforced. There is room in prisons for drug dealers. And
while jail isn't appropriate for most drug abusers, courts can force
them into treatment and counseling. So we hope the 13th Street
barricade disrupts the traffic patterns of drug customers. But more
than that, we hope that wherever those customers take their business,
they'll find an aggressive law enforcement presence and a community
that says, "No, not here.''
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