Drug activity in neighborhood alarms local woman
This abandoned house on West Seventh Street was brought up for discussion at the March meeting of the Crowley City Council.
When Betty Johnson voiced concerns regarding drug activity in her mother’s neighborhood at the March city council meeting, many of those in attendance probably didn’t realize the proximity the 84-year-old was to the three homes Johnson was concerned with.
The point was driven home during a recent visit to the woman’s home.
At the council meeting, Johnson asked why the house located on West Seventh Street had not been torn down. It was first brought before the council for condemnation nearly 18 months ago, according to Johnson.
The home, which appears to have been abandoned, was set for condemnation but remains standing with sheet metal and plywood covering the doors and windows. However, it is apparent that some of the metal and plywood are easily removed, allowing access for squatters.
“Every time it’s boarded it up they just come rip it down,” said Johnson.
Johnson is very protective of her mother and wanted her name and address to remain anonymous. The elderly woman lives in a home with a thick metal door. The rest of her home is tightly secured as well. One gets the impression that the woman, who is friendly and quick to smile, doesn’t get out much.
The abandoned house in question is just one of the empty houses which border her home. To the opposite side of her house is another allegedly empty home. During the Post-Signal’s visit, however, there was apparently some activity at the house.
When the Post-Signal arrived, a representative of the city, who was looking at the condemned home, was just leaving. A woman at the residence across the street walked hurriedly to the other empty home bordering Johnson’s mother.
“She’s going to warn the people in there that y’all are here,” said Johnson.
As she stated during the council meeting, Johnson said that she believes the two abandoned homes are used for storage by the people who sell out of “the drug store across the street.”
There were three or four men milling around in the front yard of the”drug store” house. They were picking up garbage in the home’s front yard, which seemed strange given the amount of bottles and cans which had gathered in the ditch in front of the home.
“They never come outside,” she said. “They’re just watching us.”
The home on West Seventh Street which was set for condemnation, is listed as being owned by a member of the Jerry family. Rose Senette, who owns the home in which Johnson’s mother resides, has tried to purchase the home on many occasions but the owner refuses to sell.
“I don’t understand it,” said Senette.
Senette was asked how long people had been complaining about drug activity in the area.
“For about the last 10 or 15 years,” she responded.
The Post-Signal asked others in the area how many other such “drug stores” were in operation in the city. Apparently there are several. And, unless any of their residents sell drugs to an undercover officer or there is a disturbance at any of houses, it is nearly impossible to monitor their activities.
Crowley Chief of Police K.P. Gibson has said in the past that he will never slow down in his fight against illegal narcotics in the area. He has compared the narcotics trade to any other business with a surprisingly well-organized hierarchy. And he acknowledges that he’ll probably never live to see the day when Crowley’s streets are drug free.
“I’d estimate that probably 80 percent of the crimes in our city are, directly or indirectly, related to narcotics,” said Gibson. “I don’t know anybody who doesn’t have at least one friend or family member with a drug problem.”
Nearly every month the Crowley city council has homes brought before them for condemnation. When City Inspector Danny Hebert gives the reasons that he believes the homes should be condemned, he will often state that “they are wide open and people can come and go freely.”
Abandoned homes, like the two which border Johnson’s mother, are not only capable of putting a roof over a homeless person’s head, but provide drug users with a place to use their narcotics freely.
As for the home on West Seventh Street, following Johnson’s complaint, council members agreed that it should have been torn down by now.
Mayor Greg Jones said that Hebert had grown frustrated with the many delays that usually occur throughout condemnation proceedings.
“We need to stop giving so many people breaks just because he or she is a nice person,” Jones told the council.
As far as breaks go, one gets the feeling that law-abiding citizens living in the West Seventh Street area could use one as well.
“She gets scared sometimes,” Johnson said of her mother. “It’s really sad she has to live like this.”