Gonzales Gardens residents fear gang, drug-related violence in their area - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Gonzales Gardens residents fear gang, drug-related violence in their area

(Columbia) July 25, 2006 - A Midlands task force set up to take down gangs and drug dealers has eight more suspects in custody. But in the community most recently targeted by police the job is not finished.

At home near McDuffie Street, a family has learned to live with drugs and gangs outside their door.

But the gunfire is almost too much. The mother of the family says, "It got down to the point one time - two men were right out here in front of our apartment, shooting at each other, talking junk, saying they were going to kill one another and all that stuff. We were sitting right here in the front living room."

McDuffie runs alongside the Gonzales Gardens housing complex. In that neighborhood, people tell us, it can be hazardous to venture out at night. "You're sitting there fearing for your life, fearing for your children's life, because people just want to be ignorant."

City and federal authorities are trying to deal with the problems. Tuesday they announced charges against 16 suspects, all for distribution of crack cocaine. Chief Dean Crisp talks about how combating drugs is combating violence, "There is a direct correlation with drug dealing and violence. So we take a proactive stance on that and move very quickly to these areas to eradicate that."

The indictments and arrests announced Tuesday mark the second major law enforcement operation in the community this year. And they are part of an ongoing series of drug sweeps targeting some of Columbia's most troubled neighborhoods.

Last year, one of those sweeps took dealers off the street in the area between King Park and Millwood Avenue.

Are the arrests effective? At Friendship Baptist Church, a block from McDuffie, Pastor Anthony Hicks says the neighborhood has to help, "You have to have neighborhood security. We have to look out for each other. We have to do what we can to provide security for each other."

In the latest operation, half the suspects, eight men, are still at large.

Meanwhile, some who live near McDuffie are looking for a way out, "It's not a way to live, that's why we're trying our hardest to try and get up out of here. We need to go somewhere else."    

Until that happens, they are also trying to keep their heads down.

Reported by Jack Kuenzie

Posted 7:19pm by Chantelle Janelle

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