Ennis citizens ask for help against drugs, prostitution
By 08/10/2000 00:00:00
Ellis County Press
ENNIS - On television recently, someone said to say, 'The War On Drugs,' wasn't correct.
To say something to the effect of, 'Maintaining a vigilant watch concerning drugs,' was probably more in order when speaking of a deterrent to the spread of illegal controlled substances.
That's what citizens living in the area of Fourth Ward Baptist Church on North Shawnee Street in Ennis said they have been doing.
Now they say they want more from authoritative law enforcement - the Ennis Police Department to be exact - toward eliminating drug trafficking and prostitution.
Citizens, living in the city's Fourth Ward, who attended the regular city commission Monday evening, Aug. 7 said they hadn't been an organized crime watch, but they have been keeping watchful eyes on drug and prostitution activity in the area.
They said they're tired of it.
And they don't want to take it anymore.
They want their neighborhood back.
Five citizens spoke to the commission during the most-recent meeting at city hall.
'We have a very serious drug problem in our community,' said Rev. Steve Edwards, pastor of Fourth Ward Baptist Church, 1300 N. Shawnee St. 'We've done all we can as citizens. It hasn't improved. I've submitted 10 to 15 license plates [numbers to police] over a period of time.
'There's a crack [cocaine] house across the church. It's sad to hear there's not enough manpower and funds [within the police department]. They're legitimate reasons, but that doesn't make us sleep any better. My church has been in the community 108 years.'
Edwards has been pastor at Fourth Ward Baptist the past 10 years.
'We're surrounded by drug activity,' he said. 'I've identified three houses around the church where I know drug activity is going on. I'm here tonight to ask for help. We've done everything we can short of taking the law into our own hands.
'It's a universal problem. They come here to buy and sale and leave here and go somewhere else.'
Edwards was asked if those living in the area there had formed a 'Neighborhood Watch.'
'Nothing that has been organized,' he said. 'There's not much more than the church and my house.
'We have people sleeping under trees, in the park and on porches.'
Darlene Edwards reinforced her husband's concerns.
'We have an 11-year-old son,' she said. 'We're trying to rear him as a God-fearing, law-abiding citizen. We have to take turns watching him. It doesn't matter what time of day or night, I see someone walking up and down the street. We enjoy living where we live, except that [drugs and prostitution].'
The Edwards' home is also on North Shawnee.
'I ask the Ennis Police Department to serve and protect all citizens of Ennis,' she said. 'We deserve some consideration. What are we to do when we can't get help from the police department?'
'As a taxpayer, we need to get drugs and prostitutes off our streets,' said Lanitta Collins of 401 E. Linden St. 'They're walking up and down our street all night. They're buying and selling drugs in my driveway. This needs to be stopped.'
'We have prostitutes and crack houses all around our churches. Something needs to be done.'
Alvin Collins said he phoned police while witnessing a drug deal.
'The dispatcher told me they didn't have anyone they could send,' he said. 'If these activities were going on across from Tabernacle or Baylor [Baptist Churches], the other side of the tracks, it'd be a different story. Our area is referred to as a ghetto, but it's our home. We really need help.'
'This activity is a little too close to our church,' LeNell McGraw said. 'I think about visitors that come down to our church. They see this - they're not just thinking it's the church - they're thinking it's Ennis.'
McGraw said he was in favor of multi-culture, but 'this [drug] multi-culture we don't want.
'This is the birth of it getting into our schools,' he said. 'It's going to come into our homes . . . to get something to steal to sell for one piece of crack. We just ask for it to be stopped.'
Ennis Commissioner Lola Searcy said she was proud of the people in the city's Fourth Ward.
'I'm proud to represent the Fourth Ward,' Searcy said. 'I'm sure [Police] Chief [Dale] Holt will implement some things to get a handle on this situation.'
Commissioner Stephen Durbin commended those who spoke out against drugs and prostitution in their own neighborhood.
'This takes a great deal of courage for you being here tonight,' Durbin said. 'It's not easy to do what you did this evening. Thank you.'
'I'm glad to see you here,' Commissioner Carolyn Frazier told citizens.
'You are doing what organized [neighborhood crime] watches do, so don't stop what you're doing.'
'We've reprimanded that dispatcher,' Holt said, referring to the incident when Alvin Collins reported a drug deal in progress, but didn't get a police officer to respond to the scene. 'You should've gotten an officer that day.'
Holt said his department had answered 10,000 calls over the past few months.
'So we are going to drop the ball every once in awhile,' he said. 'I can't assure you you're going to live in a crime-free area anywhere. We have made 131 arrests in that area.'
Two arrests were made during the weekend prior to the Aug. 7 commission meeting.
One arrest was the driver of a vehicle Sunday evening, Aug. 6 at East Tyler and Breckenridge Streets. After making a traffic stop, EPD Officer Ron Holden discovered a small amount of cocaine inside the vehicle.
The other arrest was Fabian Sanchez Rincon, 20, of Midlothian. EPD Captain Domingo Galban apprehended Rincon in the company of a plastic bag containing a controlled substance Friday night, Aug. 4 inside a restroom stall at the El Herradero Club on Old Bardwell Road.
'Anytime you don't feel you're not getting service, call and ask for me,' Holt told citizens. 'We can run those [license] plates. We've beefed up [patrol] over there. We're going to try to assign two or three officers over there all the time. You call me anytime. I apologize to you [Alvin Collins] again in front of the media for not getting an officer. With that, we'll keep hammering.'
'Rest assure, the members of the commission are concerned for this,' said Mayor Pro-Tem R.E. 'Bob' Taylor, filling in for Mayor Russell R. Thomas who was absent. 'We're going to work with Chief Holt.'
'We've added more patrol,' said EPD Lt. Detective Ron Roark, who is in charge of the department's Criminal Investigations Division. 'We're going to get you police. I promise.'
'We need your help,' Galban said. 'Continue this. Call us.'
EPD Detective Sergeant Mike Hopson was also at the city commission meeting.