Pubdate: Sun, 27 Apr 2014
Source: Macomb Daily, The (MI)
Copyright: 2014 The Macomb Daily
Author: Greg Murray


Back in the day, the Cass Corridor in Detroit was a highway for heroin
and other drugs. Junkies would blend in among students and the
homeless, making it hard to differentiate between those three classes
of urban dwellers. Homeless shelters seemed to be on every other
corner from Forrest to I-375. Drug houses were smartly camouflaged
within the area, which ran from West Grand Boulevard down to Michigan
Avenue, and from John R over to the Lodge freeway. That grid was a
virtual 24-7 Detroit Woodstock, the main thoroughfare for locals and
suburbanites alike, shopping for their drug of choice.

Fast forward to today---Detroit's homeless shelter zoning and
standards ordinances, along with aggressive law enforcement campaigns,
has successfully thinned out the corridor's homeless service providers
and drug house clientele. Morphed into a vibrant mix of university,
medical, theater, entertainment, and sports districts, the grid has
emerged as one of the most racially and socially diverse eclectic
safe-zones in Detroit.

A few years back, I wrote an editorial column for the Macomb Daily
reporting that Smart 560 buses were the chariot of choice for Macomb
County residents shopping for drugs off the Gratiot strip in Detroit.
I caught hell for it, and local transportation leaders denied there
was a problem or that the bus line was a hit-it and quit-it express
for safely getting (to) a fix that could not be gotten locally.

A few months later, cooperating law enforcement agencies used the 560
as a surveillance tool, leading to the arrest of more than 70
druggies, raids on Detroit drug houses located off Gratiot and the
impounding of vehicles, resulting in what was later considered a
strong message to those who thought they were smart to use SMART.
Unfortunately, it now appears that the 560 train is back on track.

While drug consumption in the Cass Corridor has statistically been
reduced, access to drugs on the 560 has seen a resurgence, making one
thing is painfully clear; heroin use is on the rise and still no
longer exclusively a two-way trip to Detroit. In fact, recent reports
suggest heroin use, and its local availability, is up in metro
Detroit, in "suburbia," perhaps in a city or township near you.

Going back a few years, counties as far out as Genesee and Livingston
started reporting sharp spikes in heroin use. Overdoses were on the
rise, and communities which thought themselves immune from the
"scourge of Detroit" had reality checks which shook their communities
to the core. Then, things got quiet for a while, and local
interventions seemed to be stemming the tidal wave of suburban heroin

However, evidence now seems to suggest that heroin use has circled
back to the suburbs with a vengeance. While it is clear drug use is no
respecter of race, stature, or any other demographic or social or
political class, what is crystal clear is that heroin users are
younger, are upgrading from bathroom cabinet prescriptions, and have,
once again, found a way to get much closer to their dealers.

Remember when the Clinton Township police discovered that 19-year old
twins had set up a heroin house in their grandmother's home right
across from Chippewa Valley High school? Clinton Township Detective
Captain Richard Mairle told the Macomb Daily then that "Heroin is a
big problem out here.Parents have to make sure they keep a close eye
on the children. We've had a lot of problems with overdoses."

Warren, Michigan's third largest city, had such an alarming spike in
heroin use that it assigned additional officers to a drug unit for a
three-month wheels-up campaign targeting heroin dealers and users. The
Macomb County Sheriff's Department and other local county law
enforcement authorities now are once again collaborating to develop
strategies for combatting the recent spike in heroin use.

Vigilance is a key tool in combating drug use on a personal level as
well as it is a strategy for municipalities. Keeping medicine cabinets
free of certain prescriptions is as important as it is for cities to
enforce drug-free zones. Parents cannot assume it cannot happen to
their kids any more than a community can take false comfort in an "it
can't happen here" mentality. It is happening here, again, right now,
and for the sake of our children and our communities, this fight needs
to once more take center stage. The fight needs to taken to our
streets, our schools, and our neighborhoods; more importantly, though,
the battle needs to be, and will be, aggressively waged.

Greg Murray is a community advocate living in Clinton Township.
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