Hanover Place NW, the District's leading cocaine market, belongs to the police again. For now.
Late Monday, seven D.C. patrol cars swooped into the little block in the first wave of a campaign called "Beat It II" and scattered drug dealers and their customers, disrupting the drug traffic again.
"We want to show the community that we will continue to bring pressure to bear against the drug dealers," said Deputy Chief Isaac Fulwood. He said Beat It II was a response to the drug traffic that returned after police effectively shut down the market last summer with "Operation Beat It."
"We are telling the criminal element that they can not camp out on Hanover without expecting some kind of reaction from us," he said.
Typically, officers patrolling the area temporarily disrupt the drug traffic on Hanover Street and then move on. But this time they have settled in to occupy for the next two weeks the scruffy dead-end block known as the place to buy cocaine in the city.
Fulwood said the operation includes 24-hour traffic checks of every car entering the block, which is near North Capitol Street and New York Avenue NW. Cars also are being checked on nearby N and O streets NW, he said, and pedestrians are being questioned.
By late last night, officers assigned to the operation had made 24 arrests, more than half for drug violations, and had seized quantities of cocaine, PCP and other drugs worth about $10,000, police said.
"The word is out. We are back and we are staying," said Capt. Gregory Smith.
The operation began shortly before midnight Monday, and in no time at all the 11 specially assigned officers had transformed Hanover Place from a congested market place into a deserted street.
The police roared into the block through its three alleys and one main entrance. Most of the 40 men and women standing on the dirty and broken sidewalk simply slipped into the abandoned houses and trash-strewn lots that characterize the block. The few who did not move fast enough were searched by police and released when no drugs were found.
A careful search through the broken bottles and fast-food wrappers on the street turned up about a dozen packets of cocaine and several small bags of PCP dropped by suspected dealers as they fled.
The police stood talking together in small groups as they waited for cars to make the turn onto Hanover from North Capitol. Most drivers turned quickly into the street, then slowed when they saw the police standing in the road. By 1 a.m., six cars were lined up as police checked for drivers' permits and registration.
One 19-year-old said he was stopped by mistake. "But the police treated me okay," he said. "They didn't rough me up or nothing."
He was let go after his permit and registration were checked.
At least one resident was not pleased by the police presence.
Like most people who live on the block, the woman said she did not want to give her name for fear that she would be considered a snitch.
"I know there is drug dealing on this street," said the 34-year-old woman. "But they don't bother anybody. They pay taxes and they have a right to stand on this street if they want to. It's the police who are a problem. They harass everyone about identification. It's Christmas and they shouldn't be doing that."
A neighbor down the block, who also would not give his name, said he welcomed the police. "I take care of my aunt and she is an invalid. It is nice for her to be able to see the street so nice and empty," he said