Pubdate: Sun, 12 Jun 2005
Source: Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)
Copyright: 2005 Asheville Citizen-Times


Naval Reserve Seabees are putting their military construction skills
to work in the war on drugs. This is yet another reminder of how
reservists are more than just a supplement to the regular forces.

Deaverview, a public housing project on the west side of Asheville, is
Ground Zero in the war on drugs. In one nine-month period in 2003, as
police were starting their stepped-up patrols in public housing,
officers answered 74 calls regarding drugs in Deaverview, making it
the most common offense reported. In 2004, most of the city's 625
police calls about drug dealing related to public housing.

The campaign, begun under former Police Chief Will Annarino, has
continued under Chief Bill Hogan. So has the drug dealing. A
Citizen-Times report last year said, "The drug dealing in Deaverview
is much like a fast-food drive-through, with buyer after buyer driving
into the neighborhood in search of a good deal."

It's not just the buyers who come into Deaverview. So do many of the
sellers. One facet of the stepped-up patrols was a police
recommendation that some 75 people be banned from the properties. Some
of those had been evicted from public housing, while other never had
lived there.

In the case of Deaverview, dealers can sneak in through the woods at
the back of the project and escape the same way when confronted by
police. The inability to contain the problem makes the police task all
the harder.

Enter the Seabees. Members of the local unit are leading a community
effort to build a fence around Deaverview. "We want to make it hard on
the drug dealers from the outside who use this as their playground,"
said Vice Mayor Carl Mumpower. "If we stop their escape hatch, we'll
dramatically reduce the amount of drug activity."

Police agree. "To catch street-level drug dealers, it sometimes takes
six to eight officers on foot to catch one dealer," said officer
Geoffrey Rollins. "Having a barrier like this will block off one area
where they can hide."

The Seabees were glad to help. "We decided it would be a good project
to take on to help the people here and the city of Asheville," said
Lt. John Geurin.

A fence is not THE answer to Deaverview drug dealing. That will
necessitate a continuation of aggressive police patrols combined with
community awareness and involvement. But it is AN answer.

We read nearly every day of the heroism our reserve and National Guard
troops demonstrate in far-off war zones. Their service overseas is
invaluable. We must not forget, however, that they also make a
difference when they are here at home. Thank you, Seabees.
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