Local News

Chainsaws Used to Clean Up Crime

Posted February 5, 1999

— The Durham Police Department is using a new weapon in its efforts to cleanse the city of crime; it's not a gun or a badge -- it's the Forestry Division.

Officer Kevin Emanuel had the idea to clean up a lot near Colfax Street that sheltered drug dealers and buyers.

The area was known on the street as "the cut" because the thick brush was covered with escape routes; officers were hesitant to chase people through the lot.

"This area was very secluded, a lot of woods, trees, things like that and heavy drug sales. We had at least two deaths back here related to heroin overdose," Emanuel says.

Police records show hundreds of calls to the lot every month. Officers say drug dealers and drug users took advantage of everything in the lot, including the manhole covers.

Then, the department called for unusual backup from the city's Urban Forestry Division. Over the course of several weeks, the backhoes and chainsaws removed the brush, and the drug problem.

"I sit on the porch a little bit now," says neighbor Willhemina Gaines. "It was kind of scary down here at night, but now it's a lot better for all of us."

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