Most weekends, the stretch of South 24th Street near Shirlington Road is Arlington's busiest open-air drug market, a hustler's bazaar of cocaine, crack, PCP and marijuana.

But yesterday, an empty brown-paper pouch of the sort commonly used to pack marijuana lay forgotten alongside the block's two pay phones -- the remnant, police say, of a network of drug traffickers that has intimidated the Nauck neighborhood for several years.

"This was the hanging spot, the gathering place," said county police Officer Matt Horace as he patroled the almost empty block yesterday afternoon. "No one was hiding it; there would be reports of syringes lying in the street . . . . People don't want their kids exposed to that."

It is at least a temporary victory in the battle for the streets. The attempted cleanup of Green Valley, a predominantly black middle-class neighborhood of South Arlington, began eight months ago with an undercover investigation that is still under way.

Based on information gathered during the investigation, a specially convened session of an Arlington grand jury last week indicted 58 adults and six juveniles on felony drug distribution charges. Police say additional indictments are pending.

The community has greeted the change warmly, said John Robinson, director of the community's Martin Luther King Community Center.

"The difference between last week and this week {is} 100 percent," said Ted Canady as he cut hair in his nearby barbershop. "You look out there now and you don't see nobody."

"Some people were dancing in the street" after the indictments were issued, Robinson said. "One lady came down here and told me that she was so glad that she could come down here in peace without having youngsters approach her about drugs."

But some residents were skeptical that the results of the investigation would last. Several refused to comment, saying they feared retaliation.

Earl Stroud, 18, said he thinks that some of the pushers and drug users have been frightened, but "in two or three months," he predicted, the drug traffic will be back to normal.

"They'll be back, just as soon as they get out of jail," Canady said.

The drug sweeps, and related raids in April and May, resulted from a close working relationship developed over the past several years between the police department and the Nauck residents, police and community leaders have said.

Robinson, who has been active in publishing antidrug literature in the community, is hoping to take advantage of the indictments and the antidrug mood of the community. Robinson said he and local church leaders are planning a rally to provide more awareness of a problem that he says is damaging the fiber of their community.

"Ninety-five percent of the people in this community are good people," Robinson said.

"It's sad, but drugs have taken the place of segregation," Robinson said. "We are really living in another form of slavery. There is no future for our young people if they are using drugs . . . . With the help of God, it's got to change."