Pubdate: Sat, 03 Dec 2005
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2005 Asheville Citizen-Times
Author: Adam Behsudi


Drug Commission Offers $1,000 Reward For Sellers' Arrests, Convictions

ASHEVILLE - Catching a big fish in a little pond might sound like an
easy thing to do. But when the big fish are big-time drug dealers and
the pond is Asheville, it's not that easy of a task for communities
and police. The Asheville-Buncombe Drug Commission wants to give
people an incentive for helping police arrest dealers who are selling
large quantities of drugs, either directly to the public or to
smaller, street-level dealers. The "Dealer Down" program was named to
counter the phrase "man down" that dealers use when police are sighted
near an area where drugs are being sold. The program will reward
whistleblowers in the community $1,000 if a dealer possessing a half a
kilogram, or 1.1 pounds, of hard drugs like cocaine, crack or
methamphetamines is arrested. Another $1,000 will be rewarded if the
same person is convicted.

"We're trying to bring down these bigger people who do so much harm,"
said Vice Mayor Carl Mumpower, the chair of the drug commission, at a
Friday morning press conference. He said the reward money is being
raised privately and does not involve any funding from the city.

Drug arrests in Asheville have increased 33 percent over four years,
with 1,212 arrests in the 2004-05 fiscal year, according to city
staff. Trina Boyd, a resident of the Livingston Heights housing
development, said the program could potentially slow down the drug
trade in some Asheville communities. She said the issue is a complex
one, and neighbors need to be on the lookout for drug users as well.

"We're targeting the drug dealers, but what about the number of people
that are coming in to buy the drugs?" she said. Boyd said a cash
reward might compel some residents to be more vigilant, but if someone
is already being supported by drug money, as many are, the chances
they will report a dealer or supplier are slim.

With the program targeting larger volume dealers, the commission hopes
to minimize the supply to street-level dealers.

"We're talking about going after the bigger distributors," said
Asheville Police Chief Bill Hogan. "These are the quantities we can
prosecute at a federal level." Gene Bell, a drug commission member and
interim executive director of the Asheville Housing Authority, said
it's hard to determine how effective the program will be but said it
is a way to deter crime in some Asheville communities.

James Thompson, a resident of the Aston Park Towers, said he is
willing to try anything that could limit the drug trade in his
community, where many elderly and disabled people live.

"We know there's a lot of selling going on," he said. As the resident
caretaker of the neighborhood association for the Aston Park Towers
and the Garden Apartments, Thompson said he sometimes knows very
specifically where drugs are being sold at certain times and would not
be afraid to report it to a tip line.

Thompson, an organizer of the hall monitor program for his building,
said there are some monitors who would readily report activity to the
police drug suppression unit and one hall monitor who already "wears
the tip line out" with calls.

A generous reward, he said, might compel more to call in to report
drug dealing.
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