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Drug traffic brings calls for patrols

Inlet residents fear a return to Hot Road era

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

When a narcotics commander for the 15th Judicial Circuit spoke at a meeting of the Murrells Inlet African-American Community Coalition recently, he told the group his team had just made a heroin sale a mile and a half from where they were sitting in Greater Gordon Chapel.

It was further proof of a growing drug problem that members of the community said they’ve seen developing for some time in the area of Murrells Inlet around Old River and Turntable roads.

It’s something they’ve seen and attacked before. And now they’re gearing up to do it again.

“We want to stop it before it gets as bad as it used to be,” said Rudolph O. Brown, founder and president of the coalition.

About 15 years ago, that area was called the Hot Road, a major hot spot for drug deals. That led to the formation of the coalition.

“I remember Sheriff [Lane] Cribb saying there must have been a sign at the border saying where to come get drugs,” Brown said. “And it wasn’t just people coming over from Horry County. You’d see license plates from almost every state in the union.”

In 1996, community members decided it was time to clean things up.

They put together an anti-drug rally, installed street lights and formed a crime watch group to help the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office in apprehending drug dealers and buyers.

Their efforts made a big difference and their community became a safer, more pleasant place to live.

But now the problem is on the rise again.

“It’s not as bad as it was in ‘94 to ’96, but the trend is there and if nothing is done, it could escalate back to that,” Brown said.

The meeting Sept. 22 with the narcotics commander, Bill Knowles, was one of the coalition’s first steps in combatting the drug problem. About 30 people turned out to ask questions and hear him talk about the agencies that take on the drug trade and how they work together.

“After complaints from residents about drug activities going on, we want to try to initiate an anti-drug campaign to hinder further increase in drug operations and stop existing drug operations in our community for the benefit of our kids,” Brown said. “We want to try to preserve our community, in which they will have a safe haven and continue their education to become more productive citizens in the county, state and country.”

Neil Johnson, a spokesman for the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office, said local law enforcement is aware of the problem in the area and is working on it. He wouldn’t give details about what is being done.

Community members are to be commended for the actions they are taking to solve the problem, he said.

“It’s a plus in any community when people get involved,” Johnson said. “It helps when communities work together to have neighborhood watches and community meetings. Everybody in the neighborhood needs to know what’s going on in their community. They need to know their neighbors and when somebody is going to be away, so if they see something out of the way, they can contact us and we can help.”

One of the biggest challenges the coalition expects to face in its efforts is convincing kids and teens that the quick money that can be made in dealing drugs isn’t worth it in the long run.

That’s one area where members hope information they garnered from Knowles might come into play. They want kids to understand the consequences that come from being involved with drugs.

“Young people see the flashy stuff — the cars, jewelry, clothes and footwear these people have and they want it,” Brown said. “These people are making a considerable amount of money in minutes or hours, whereas it would take a normal citizen a week to make that kind of money. They need to realize that these bad habits can cost them their future.

“They need to understand the punishment behind these things, because eventually they will get caught and once they do, it’s too late. A criminal record follows you all the days of your life.”

Brown said the next step will be inviting kids and teens to a meeting on Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. at Holy Temple Church on Turntable Road. Coalition members said they’ll share with the kids what they learned from Knowles last month.

Brown said the coalition will also be trying to educate adults in the community about the problem and enlist them to join the effort to eliminate it.

In addition to pushing dealers out of the neighborhood, Brown said the coalition will be focusing on getting help for those who are addicted to drugs.

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