Pubdate: Sun, 09 May 2004
Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)
Copyright: 2004 St. Paul Pioneer Press
Authors: Charles Laszewski, and Janet Roberts


Fear Is The Last To Leave.

You wouldn't know it from the kids on bicycles, the neighbors out for 
after-dinner strolls or the others who are reclaiming Frogtown's streets 
from drug dealers.

But go beyond the streetscape and knock on doors to ask folks about the 
change, and it becomes clear the neighborhood hasn't completely turned the 
corner. More than a year after dozens of dealers were arrested, many who 
live there still were afraid to talk to Pioneer Press reporters about 
crime, saying they feared reprisals.

Their concerns are grounded in experience. Frogtown sits in one of the 
city's densest crime pockets, which straddles University Avenue and spills 
south into the Summit-University neighborhood. Even after Operation 
Sunrise, which triggered a dramatic drop in 911 complaints about 
drug-related street crime, the area remains one of St. Paul's three worst 
hot spots, according to a Pioneer Press analysis.

And although the sting brought relief to the neighborhood, complaints 
intensified elsewhere as dealers shifted their business to different street 

Police acknowledge the fight against drug crime in Frogtown is far from over.

"I don't fool myself," said Police Chief William Finney. "They haven't gone 
away. You beat 'em back and they come back when the time is right for them 

That comes as no surprise to Mickey Yang.

The lure of homeownership brought Yang and his wife to Frogtown three years 
ago. They bought a new house built by the Builders' Outreach Foundation, 
which helps lower-income families buy homes. It was Yang's dream to finish 
school at the University of Minnesota, become a pharmacist and raise his 
five children in the neighborhood, where brothers, parents and other 
relatives live.

But now Yang, 37, is talking about moving, a "for sale" sign planted in his 
front yard. He concedes life was a bit better last summer, with fewer 
people littering, loitering and urinating on lawns. But problems remain. 
His car and those of relatives were broken into last year. And in July, 
someone grabbed his wife in the alley. She was able to escape and run into 
the house, Yang said.

"I'm going to sell the house. I love it here, but I don't feel safe."

Yang isn't alone. Shortly after Operation Sunrise, Tait Danielson of the 
neighborhood's Planning Council went door to door asking people to sign a 
community impact statement for judges to consider when sentencing the drug 
dealers. Many signed, he said, but dozens of others were too terrified. 
Numbers help explain why. The Pioneer Press examined police calls related 
to drugs, prostitution, robbery, assault, shots fired, loitering and 
disorderly conduct. Such complaints dropped 35 percent - or by 865 calls - 
in the year after Operation Sunrise.

Such a drop-off would be cause for celebration in some neighborhoods, but 
in Frogtown, the reduction is relative. Over the year, the neighborhood 
still generated more than 1,570 such calls, including some 320 specifically 
about drugs, 120 about aggravated assault or robbery, 220 about 
prostitution and 80 about weapons.

Contrast that with some of the city's quietest neighborhoods, such as 
Macalester-Groveland and Summit Hill, each of which totaled fewer than 75 
such calls.

Another reason neighbors are wary: The absence of drug dealers on the 
street corners police targeted doesn't mean a wholesale drop-off in drug trade.

Concentrated drug sweeps might bring relief to a targeted area, but they 
also tend to shift the problem elsewhere, said Joseph McNamara, former 
police chief of Kansas City, Mo., and San Jose, Calif. " All the efforts 
have not reduced the production of drugs, it has not reduced the amount 
coming in and it has not reduced the purity," said McNamara, now a research 
fellow at Hoover Institution at Stanford University. "It's simply 

Using computer software to map where the police calls were most 
concentrated, the Pioneer Press found that after Operation Sunrise, 
Frogtown's most intense crime pocket drifted about six blocks southwest.

Before Sunrise, the densest concentration was a 12-square-block area 
centered at Charles Avenue and Grotto Street. In the year after, the hot 
spot moved a few blocks west along University Avenue, and spilled south 
into Summit-University.

The newspaper also found larger clusters in the Payne-Phalen and Dayton's 
Bluff neighborhoods. A small pocket popped up on the West Side, and 
complaints intensified downtown and along Rice Street on the North End.

Those findings don't surprise people familiar with the drug trade. They 
report no shortage of cocaine and no price jump after the Operation Sunrise 

Eugene "Geno" Jackson, a reformed drug user, said that's typical. After 
major drug busts in Minneapolis, he said, buyers spent two or three days 
seeking a new dealer. Supply droughts usually last no more than three 
weeks, he said.

The Rev. Devin Miller, who runs the Life Skills Development Center on Selby 
Avenue, has fought drug dealing in the Summit-University neighborhood for 
years. Since the sting, he said, there has been an upturn in drug activity 
in other parts of Summit-University and Thomas-Dale, as well as on the East 

Police confirm the trend, and also say there has been a return indoors to 
crack dens. Carla Brogdon, a former prostitute from the Frogtown area, said 
she has seen drug dealers move their business off the streets and into 
places such as taverns.

"Now they are more cautious," she said.

Still, Operation Sunrise did get dealers off some of the most troubled 
corners, and for that reason, officials say, it deserves praise.

"If there is a decline in calls, how can you call it anything but 
successful?" asked Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner. "If people are 
dealing in the sanctity of their home, that's a bad thing - but not as bad 
as dealing where five kindergartners are going by."

Reporter Lisa Donovan contributed to this report.
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