Neighbors Alarmed Over Drug Sales In Alleys Near H Street NE
by Larry Janezich
Last night, ANC6C05 Commissioner Joel Kelty added a last minute item to the agenda of the Commission’s May meeting: a discussion of drug dealing in the alleys near H Street, NE. The area lies in Kelty’s single member district.
Neighbors called in to the virtual meeting to say they have noticed an uptick in drug dealing in their alleys over the past several months and were concerned about the public nuisance, their kids, and pets. The initiative by neighbors was in support of making the issue an agenda item for discussion and investigation going forward.
Residents cited their observations in support of the allegations:
- Lager groups congregating in the alleys
- Witnessing drug activity
- A recent drug overdose requiring Emergency Medical Services
- Trash issues and discarded drug paraphernalia contributing to the overall problem
Kelty – who has stated in the past that he does not oppose legalization of cannabis – said he sees a relationship between the problem and the decriminalization of marijuana – that “H Street has become the de facto Mecca of the illegal sale of weed in DC.” He related the illegal drug activity in the neighborhood to “the tolerance the city has taken” to illegal gifting of weed. There are numerous shops on H Street that cater to the trade.
Kelty advised neighbors that there are some things they can do:
- Report all incidents to MPD – police allocate resources according to the number of calls for service.
- Advocate for a local prosecution. He said that “MPD can’t solve the problem by itself. These crimes are prosecuted by US Attorney’s Office and they don’t seem interested and refuse to paper the case when MPD makes arrests.”
- Take advantage of the MPD camera rebate program. He said his own use of a camera has resulted in 18 or 20 arrests over the past 15 years or so.
- Ask DPW for an alley cleanup.
On April 5, the city council rejected a bill proposed by Chair Phil Mendelson which would have allowed fines for unlicensed weed businesses of up to $30,000. Some council members who voted against the bill wanted a more thorough investigation of the issue in public hearings. In addition, some were concerned that shutting down gifting shops would merely move the trade to home delivery.