Mark Hayward's City Matters: It takes time (and a village) to shut down a drug houseBy MARK HAYWARD
July 15. 2017 1:03AM
It didn’t stagger into a Safe Station.
Nor did it stand up in front of its peers, pronounce its name and admit its failings.
But make no doubt about it, 82 Laurel St. is in recovery.
Gone are the alcoholics, drug addicts and prostitutes who lived in the two-family house and upended the neighborhood for six months. Now contractors are at the house, creating a new life for the house in a densely packed, working class, center-city neighborhood.
To extend this metaphor further, this recovery wouldn’t have taken place if not for intervention. Cops who raided a drug house. A landlord who woke up and protected his investment. Neighbors who fought to take back their street.
“People are coming back outside, sitting on their porches. Kids are playing,” said one neighbor, Shanna Gosselin.
Here is the perspective of each:
Gosselin, who lives in an apartment across the street, said the fights, the drug couriers and the late-night screaming started early last winter.
“You name it, they had it over there,” Gosselin said. Eli Riozzi remembers seeing drug dealers, users acting maniacally, and drug customers leaving the house.
“I called numerous times,” he said. “It just didn’t seem like the police could do anything.”
Gosselin and Riozzi both said police were often slow to respond. Riozzi was frustrated. Gosselin was persistent. Police, she said, have a lot of work to do.
So she helped out. She befriended women living at the house. She’d give them a cigarette and a ride to the store.
“I’m getting too old for this,” one told her.
They’d tell their life stories — of prostitution, of cooking crack, of the dysfunctional relationships of the residents. Gosselin fed the information to police, she said.
In the meantime, she yelled at troublemakers from her second-floor window. They didn’t care. They taunted her, telling her they knew she was calling the police.
A police SWAT team finally raided the address on March 31, according to police Lt. Brian O’Keefe, a department spokesman.
In the end, police didn’t get much: a pellet rifle, $152 in cash, one baggie each of heroin, crack cocaine and marijuana and two glass pipes, according to O’Keefe. One resident was arrested on an unrelated warrant.
O’Keefe said residents should contact police if they suspect drug or criminal activity.
“Bear in mind, it takes time to shut down a drug house,” O’Keefe said. Police have to confirm it is a drug house, they have to identify the bad guys, and they have to build a case against them, he said.
Almost two weeks before the raid, the landlord — North Hampton resident Christopher Trosin — had filed papers to evict the second-floor residents, said his lawyer, Brian Shaughnessy.
The downstairs tenants had complained about too many people upstairs. Trosin visited and was alarmed at the number of “guests” in the apartment, as well as talk about guns, Shaughnessey said.
Police didn’t notify Trosin about neighborhood complaints until the day of the raid.
“This is the first time he heard anything about drugs,” Shaughnessey said.
Sure, Trosin visited the property, but always on Saturday mornings when everything seemed fine, Shaughnessey said.
What to make of this?
First: Better communication is needed. Authorities shouldn’t wait until the BearCat is parked out front before notifying landlords about problems, and neighbors should feel empowered to call landlords. (Shaughnessey warns, however, that such complaints will eventually get to the tenants.)
Second: This city needs to consider whether it is enabling addicts. Gosselin said we are. Sure we all know addiction is a disease. But addicts commit crimes, and crime hurts neighborhoods.
“If you let them know you’re scared,” Gosselin said, “they know they’ve won.”
Mark Hayward’s City Matters appears Saturdays in the New Hampshire Union Leader. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.