Eliminating Drugs From The Secret City

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Knoxville (WVLT) -- East Tennessee's war on drugs may be getting tougher.

Published reports have quoted Anderson County's District Attorney General as saying Hispanic gangs and other new rivals are fighting for their own piece of a market while growing beyond the county's borders.

We looked at what that means for neighbors and the law officers doing battle.

The D.A. speaks, of new, even greater threats.

Law officers and neighbors say the faces of drug dealing have been changing, but the game, is the same.

Some Oak Ridgers have tried to beautify the area by planting gardens.

"As things grow, sometimes they can change the perception of a community," said Larry Gipson.

Gipson has lived in the Scarboro neighborhood since 1949.

Though he lives in a city known for keeping them, its no secret that he hopes his garden helps cultivate more than a patch of pride for his neighborhood.

"Scarboro is no worse than other neighborhoods in Oak Ridge," he says. "There was a drug bust that was made about a month or so ago."

Actually, the bust was more in the Woodland community.

It included 19 arrests for dealing crack after 5 months of street buys.

According to law enforcement, the Secret City has a reputation in the drug community.

"It's a pretty strong crack cocaine market," said Lt. Mike Uher of the Oak Ridge Police Department. "For about 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you can come and buy it.

Anderson County has battled meth labs for years, but last year brought 92 arrests in the county and town's largest bust
ever for prescription drugs.

"We have a lot of outsiders come here to buy drugs and we always have," said Lt. Uher.

"Most of the people arrested for selling drugs in the community do not live here," Gipson said.

The signs make clear that Mr. Gipson and his neighbors don't want the dealers in there community.

But they aren't turning the dealers in.

"We're not telling on anyone," Gipson said. "We're not pointing out someone who's doing things. We're just trying to make it a better place to live."

Police say concerned neighbors are making the battle easier.

"There's always, unfortunately, somebody willing to stand on that corner, drive that car and sell that rock," said Lt. Uher.

Rooting them out is a matter of money and muscle.

"You Just have to hit them in the mouth, and just keep going," Lt. Uher said.

Long-timer Larry Gipson wonders whether the better solution is getting his neighbors more rooted.

"We need to get back to where people will buy a home instead of renting," he said. "When you own something you take more pride in it, instead of renting."

After all, he doesn't plan to leave after 58 years in Scarboro

"My plans are to die in the city of Oak Ridge," he said. "This community, I will not move."

Several of Anderson County's major crack, meth, and prescription busts have been task force busts.

Believe it or not the dealers themselves have footed the bill thanks to forfeited assets.

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