PROTECTING YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD FROM DRUG DEALERS
By: Maryanne Hunsberger
Signs of Drug Activity
Like many similar areas in the United States, Tampa faces a growing battle against drug sales. The police can’t solve this problem alone. Success requires community involvement. It is important that you know what an investigation requires and how you can help.
Contact District One Crime Prevention
District One Crime Prevention is a liaison for you with the various units of the police investigating the drug problem. We will forward your information to the Q.U.A.D. Sergeant in your neighborhood or you can call them directly at 354-3818.
Keep Your Neighborhood Watch Active
An active Neighborhood Watch can alert your neighbors who may not be aware of possible drug activity and encourage them to observe and report it as well. A Neighborhood Watch can help deter future drug dealing in your neighborhood, and also help to prevent other types of crimes, such as burglaries, that often accompany drug activity. When new neighbors move in, let them know that you have a Neighborhood Watch Program and invite them to join. This warns anyone who might consider your neighborhood as a drug base that you and your neighbors are alert and will report suspected criminal activity.
What Happens After You Make a Report?
When you report drug activity, you may not see any police response. The area or individuals you are reporting on may already be the subject of an on-going undercover investigation. Also, since drug transactions seldom involve danger to participants or bystanders, crimes that endanger someone must have first priority for available officers.
Not Sufficient For an Arrest
Citizen reports are not usually the primary cause for a drug arrest. Unless the citizen has special training or experience with drugs or drug users, the courts will probably hold that an arrest based only on his or her testimony isn’t justified. Since few citizens can meet these strict legal standards, officers who do have the training and experience must make their own observations and collect evidence that the courts will accept.
Some citizen complaints are found to be invalid when they are investigated. This can happen when neighbors misinterpret what they see. Sometimes it happens because the drug complaint is revenge for other neighborhood problems. Both your rights and those of other people have to be protected in the process of stopping drug trafficking.
Provides Cause For an Investigation
Your reports are very important. They let the police know there’s a problem, and you provide a reason for police to start an investigation of a person or location or provide vital information for an on-going investigation. Laws do no allow police to stop or investigate people without a good reason to believe they may be involved in illegal activity. Your information may be vital to meeting this demand of the law.
If sufficient cause can be confirmed, a request is made to a magistrate for a search warrant for the house or building. Residents who possess drugs will be arrested. The court may release them on bail, however, and they may return to their neighborhood while they await trial. Under the law, certain property may be confiscated by the government, and the proceeds of their sale given to law enforcement agencies to be used for drug enforcement activities.
What the Police Would Like to Know
• What makes you believe drugs are being sold?
• Do you know what drugs are involved? Have you seen any drug paraphernalia?
• How long has the activity gone on?
• Have you reported this activity before? If so, when?
• What is the address where the drug activity is occurring (including the apartment number) or the closest intersection.
• What type of building is it? (single family, home, business, apartment)
• Where on the property is the drug activity taking place? (at the front door, out the back window, in the alley, etc)
• Do you know where the drugs are kept?
• What is the pattern of the activity? (Time of day and days of the week when it is the heaviest? Number of people in and out in a given hour? Do cars drive up to the house or do people park and walk up? From which direction do they come and how do they leave) Keep a written log of your observations, including dates and times, this can help identify patterns. Have there been any other crimes associated with the operation (threats or assaults on neighbors, increased burglaries, etc)?
• Do you know the name and address of the property owner?
• Do you know the name(s) of the person or persons suspected of dealing?
• What do the suspected dealer(s) look like? (sex age, race, height, weight, build, hair and eye color, hair style, facial hair, complexion, eyewear, distinctive clothing) Be as specific as possible with your description(s).
• What type car(s) do the suspected dealer(s) drive? (Make, model, year, style)
• How many people live in the house or apartment? Are the children? How old?
• Any dogs? What kind? How many?
• Any bars or other types of reinforcements on the windows and doors of the house or apartment? What kind? Where? Any alarm or security systems? What kind?
• Have you seen any weapons? What kind? How many?
How to Report Drug Activity
Don’t assume the police already know about the activity or that a neighbor will call. Don’t assume one report is all that is needed. If the activity keeps on occurring, keep on reporting it. If the pattern changes, report that change. All neighbors observing the drug activity are encouraged to report it. Remember the number to report drug activity in District One is 354-3818 or visit:
Online Drug Dealing Complaint Form
Tampa Police Department Neighborhood Watch: http://www.tampagov.net/dept_Police/programs_and_services/Neighborhood_Watch/