A week after D.C. police moved in to shut down the notorious Hanover Place NW drug market, officials reported yesterday that they have made 87 arrests on Hanover and in the surrounding 18-block "buffer zone" to which they expected many dealers would shift their operations.
Police said 32 arrests were for gun and drug charges and that they have confiscated 13 guns and drugs with a street value of $14,000.
"It is our desire to get street-level drug dealing out of that neighborhood completely," said Assistant Police Chief Isaac Fulwood. "And as we continue to move, we will expand the buffer zone and keep pushing them out. The mayor is insisting that we clear the area of drugs and we intend to do just that."
Last week's raid, called "Operation Avalanch," marked the third time in 18 months that police had moved in to clear drug dealers from the one-block street near New York Avenue NW and North Capitol Street.
The full-time police occupation of Hanover Place is scheduled to continue until the day after Christmas, but Fulwood said police activity on the street will continue indefinitely. Currently, a total of 60 officers, many of them working overtime, are assigned to patrol Hanover Place -- 10 officers on the day shift and 25 on each of the evening and night shifts.
"The mayor has given us the resources and the overtime and the help of other agencies," Fulwood said. "The mayor has said he doesn't want anyone coming back to him and saying the drugs are back on Hanover Place."
Fulwood said the buffer zone is bounded by First Street NE, Fourth Street NW and New York and Florida avenues NW and that increased police patrols have been assigned to the entire area. Some residents of the buffer zone reported apparent drug-related activity in their neighborhoods and an increased police presence.
Additional officers also have been assigned to patrol three known drug markets nearby -- at Fifth and Warner streets NW, Lincoln Road and R Street NE and First and M streets NW, Fulwood said.
Hanover Place itself has been tranformed from a bustling cocaine market to a virtually empty block.
Yesterday, Officers P.J. Campbell and Keith M. Maddox flagged down each car entering Hanover Place from North Capitol Street and checked police records on every nonresident to determine if there was an arrest warrant pending.
Campbell said many apparent would-be customers entered the area during the weekend but that the last two days had been slow.
Maddox said he has intrigued by the excuses people have given for driving into Hanover Place, a street with no stores and few residents.
"They say they are visiting a friend but they don't know his name or his address," said Maddox, laughing. "Or they say they are just out for a ride and thought they'd drive through an alley."
Karen Smith, who has lived on Hanover Place for six months, said yesterday that she welcomes the heavy police concentration.
"I can sleep now at night," she said as she unloaded groceries from her car. "And I don't have to worry about a bullet in my head every time I come out onto the street."
But an elderly woman who lives near Fifth and Warner Streets NW, one of the spillover markets, said she was frightened by the increased drug activity there. Usually 12 to 14 men have stood at the corner selling cocaine, the woman said, but the number had increased in the last week to about 20.
"Then on Sunday, the police came in and hit it twice," she said. "I pray that the police won't go away."