It has been a dreary couple of weeks in the Port City, but there have been a few bright spots, courtesy of the Mobile Police Department and the Stimpson administration.
The mayoral election, which made Stimpson the city’s top dog was quite divisive, leaving citizens collectively feeling a bit battered and fatigued. But the mayor’s enthusiastic campaign promises to exact noticeable change seemed to offer hope there would be a salve to treat such wounds.
I’ll admit; I have no patience. My mother always preached something about it being a virtue, but it has always been one of the many I failed to possess. So pretty soon after he was sworn in, I started to get a little antsy wondering when exactly all this change was going to come. I know, I know. He had to assemble his team — the ingredients for the healing ointment, if you will. Farm to tube-fresh, nothing but the best and brightest from Mobile. And, oh yeah, Baldwin. Grrrrr.
But once all these fine local and across-the-Bayway ingredients, along with new ideas and fresh approaches were all mixed up, it was only a matter of time before they would start squeezing their magic potion out on to the problem areas.
With a tougher little ordinance and renewed focus on failing buildings costing the city millions, among other initiatives, you could finally feel things starting to happen.
And the most recent “squeeze” of the tube came last week with “Operation Drive Thru,” a raid of the area around Kennedy and State streets performed by MPD and other law enforcement agencies, which resulted in 21 individuals being arrested for a total of 31 felony and 20 misdemeanor drug charges. The operation got its name because “you can pull up, not know anyone and you can get crack cocaine. It’s like a McDonalds drive-thru,” MPD Chief James Barber said.
And they didn’t stop at just stopping the “drive-thru.” They actually bulldozed piles of trash around one of the nuisance residences where these drugs had been peddled. Now that is change you can really see and a clear message sent. Bravo Chief Barber and Mayor Stimpson!
My husband and I live off Springhill Avenue so it is a path we travel often and any time we go downtown, we pass right by the area near where this all went down. Even from a moving car it has been obvious there were some um, “business transactions” going on around there, even right on Springhill Avenue, about a block from this raid. And pretty much any time of day.
We have been commenting on this area for years, wondering why if it was so apparent — even to us — why the MPD or DEA hadn’t shut these dealers down.
In fact, in my expert armchair policing garnered from all my years of watching “The Wire,” I told Frank the cops must let them purposefully keep doing it there so at least they know where it is happening — that way they can monitor the players and develop CIs, that’s “confidential informants” for you folks who prefer watching “The Voice” to “The Shield.” It was the only explanation that made sense. (Don’t worry. It’s not too late. You can “crack out” on these fine shows on Netflix, so you too can become an armchair law enforcement expert and crack detective. Or detective of crack, if you prefer.)
We had seen so many little sketchy vignettes over the years there it had become sadly comical. We wondered who that corner’s “employee of the month” or “top producer” would be. Would he be getting a new iPad or a trip to a time-share in Mexico for reaching his quarterly sales goals?
Not so long ago, we were all dressed up to go to something downtown and I remember jokingly asking Frank as we drove by there, “I wonder if I walked up there dressed just like this right now and asked for crack, if they would sell it to me or just shoot me in the head.”
We decided not to perform any experiments of this nature for many reasons, but Frank speculated I would probably be able to purchase it, as he recalled his own story of being offered a “cookie,” and not the type sold by the Girl Scouts.
“Remember when I was getting gas one night when it was fairly late at (a gas station near downtown) and a guy walking by nonchalantly said, “Hey, you want some crack?”
Frank said no, but being the weirdo he is asked if he could see what it looked like.
The guy obliged and Frank said, “Well that looks like a lot of crack you have there, sir.”
To which, the gentleman said “Yep” and kept on walking.
Somehow I didn’t become a widow that night. I swear that man will chat anyone up. Grrrrr.
I don’t mean to make light of the situation. It’s a horrible drug that destroys people, families and neighborhoods. Again, it was just so painfully obvious nothing was being done about it for so long, it was ridiculous. This was one of the many reasons I was so frustrated with the previous administration and police chief. I mean if it’s so bad, it’s becoming a punch line and seemingly nothing at all is being done about it, something is very wrong.
I know the good people who live right around there didn’t find this amusing at all and must be so grateful something has FINALLY been done.
And yes, I know. Crackheads are always going to want crack. And crack dealers will always somehow find a way to get it in their hands even if it’s not on the corner of Kennedy and State.
But at least they know now this isn’t going to be tolerated.
Maybe this one squeeze of the ointment isn’t going to heal the problem completely, but it’s an encouraging start to becoming, as promised, one of the “safest” cities in America by 2020.