About five times a week, Nauck community activist John Robinson receives telephone calls from drug addicts in that South Arlington neighborhood who say they want to get help.

Robinson often tries to have them admitted to a drug detoxification center in Alexandria. But usually, the wait for an opening is several days.

"I have to phone Alexandria every day, five or six times a day," he said. "Most of these drug addicts are not patient. If they don't go in for treatment right after they call me, some of them never go."

Almost lost in the bitter controversy over where to put a drug and alcohol detox center in Arlington is the serious need for one. The county now has no short-term drug rehabilitation facility.

The 32-bed Alexandria Regional Detoxification Center is the only such facility in Northern Virginia, and administrators there said they receive 70 telephone inquiries like Robinson's each day, primarily from Fairfax, Alexandria, Arlington and Prince William.

A clean bill of health from a detox center, where an addict can be admitted for up to two weeks, is necessary for admission to longer-term treatment programs.

"The six or seven beds allotted in the Alexandria center to Arlington meet only about 25 to 30 percent of the need," said Thomas Fonseca, chairman of the Arlington County Community Service Board, which reviews local drug and alcohol abuse programs. "A detox center in the county is long overdue."

County officials proposed a detox center, combined with a jail release facility and a shelter for the homeless, for the Barcroft Park area of South Arlington. But the plan was overwhelmed by neighborhood opposition and was withdrawn after the state agreed to relieve crowding in the county jail.

While that decision was a cause for celebration in some areas of South Arlington, many in the mostly black Nauck neighborhood were sadly disappointed.

"I thought that we finally had a detox center in Arlington," said Audrey Moten, a Nauck resident who said she was baffled by the vehemence of the opposition to the center.

"Something like that in a community can only make it safer. It would be a constructive way of finally dealing with the problem."

Nauck's residents may be more sympathetic to the solution because they are more familiar with the problem. For more than 15 years, many residents of Nauck -- the Arlington area hardest hit by drug trafficking and addiction -- have lobbied for such a center, periodically sending petitions to the County Board and lobbying for federal money.

Although the Nauck Civic Association opposed the Barcroft proposal, many Nauck residents said they supported it. And they said they would even welcome the center in their neighborhood if that would speed the process of creating one somewhere in Arlington.

"If we can have the problems that we have on 'The Corner' now, then why not have a detox center here?" asked Joan Cooper, of Nauck, referring in local jargon to the intersection of South 24th Street and Shirlington Road, where the bulk of local drug activity occurs. "We'd be no worse off than we are right now."

Zoning restrictions make Nauck, primarily a residential area, an unlikely site for the detox center, said Fonseca, of the Community Service Board.

"I could see reasons for suggesting that the center be placed there," he said, "but Arlington is small enough that a detox center can be successful wherever it is located."

A citizens committee appointed to recommend a new site for the detox center met for the first time last Monday. Some Nauck residents expressed skepticism about the group's work.

"It's always the same thing -- a study group, a community group, a review panel," Moten said.

"We know exactly what we need in Arlington. We know that the drug problem is an epidemic. And here we are in Arlington, not doing anything about it."