Kicking Out Crime 

The district attorney's office outs its 1,500th drug dealer.

Sometimes there are more important things than money.

Since July 1997, the district attorney's Drug Dealer Eviction Program has authorized about $13,000 in rewards to citizens who make tips to Crimestoppers, but a majority of the tipsters never pick up their money.

"I tell them here's your tip number," said Jackie Condrey, criminal investigator for the program. "They're like, I'm not interested. I just want this out of my neighborhood."

Recently, the program made its 1,500th eviction. Condrey screens about 2,600 cases a year, partly by going through copies of all felony drug arrest records and determining if they happened in a rental property. If the tenant -- an actual drug dealer or not -- was arrested for a felony amount of drugs in or around the property, Condrey contacts their landlord to have them evicted.

"Some of [the landlords] have been scared. They like the fact that we take the responsibility off their shoulders. We let them say the D.A.'s office says [the tenant] needs to move," she said.

Danny Quinn has been a landlord for about 20 years, buying run-down apartment buildings, kicking out those he calls "bad people," working on the properties, and then selling them.

"The rebuilding is very easy. The hard part is getting rid of the bad people," he said. "They tend to shoot you and get upset. Most of the time, if they're dealing drugs, it may be their area of town, and they don't like to be displaced."

Quinn wishes the program could go further because he has seen so many landlords look the other way. He recently bought a 34-unit building where a tenant of nine years had been dealing drugs.

"Everybody in the complex knew it was a crack house," he said. "Actually, the front of the building was spray-painted with the words 'crack house' with an arrow pointing to his front door." Quinn took over the building and the guy was gone 45 days later. "Some landlords really don't want [district attorney] Bill Gibbons sticking his nose in their business because, frankly, they don't have to live there," Quinn said. "They're going to rent to whoever can pay."

Condrey said the program has no way to track dealers once evicted but noted she has evicted some individuals from more than one place. The ultimate goal is not just for a person to leave the neighborhood but to get tired of being moved around and leave the county.

"The biggest requests I get," said Quinn, "are for security bars and dead bolts: How much stuff can you put around me to keep me safe? The key is not bars or locks. The key is telling bad people we don't want you living here." n

E-mail: cashiola@memphisflyer.com

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