The Big Bust of 2004

Well I didn't get a chance to join my neighbors in Northside for a night out last night, but I have walked many times past the notorious crack house on Nunn Street. My neighbors attest that this has been a known place of dealing for over 10 years. And it doesn't take an expert to see it - young men commonly stand in the middle of the street, approach slowing cars, exchange bags and bills in broad daylight.

Police got so desperate about the situation last April that they arrested the wheelchair-bound woman who lived there. She was basically trading her home for some minimal elder care from the dealers and their friends. This is not an unusual arrangement around here. I'm told by some neighbors that she recently took a turn for the worse, and her family put her into a rest home.

And I suppose her absense precipitated what hapenned tonight. While many of us were snug in our homes, happily watching Al Sharpton bring down the house in Boston, there was a LOUD BANG. I went outside to see what it could be (after the Revend finished kicking ass) and joined half a dozen neighbors kibitzing in the street.

Police had parked an unmarked car with strobe lights flashing at the entrance of Nunn Street. None could pass. Shades of the mid-90's "Operation Ready-Rock" in which Chapel Hill police received a blanket warrant allowing them to search every person and vehicle on the 100 block of North Graham Street. That bust, in which every black person on the street was searched while white people left the area, resulted in only minor quanities of drugs found.

So apparently the noise was a percussion grenade intended to stun and immobilize the many people hanging out on and near the porch of the famous house. As we looked on, people seemed to be slowly and calmly being removed from the house. Parked in the street was a huge truck (maybe unmarked, I couldn't see, but definitely not police-looking) it's purpose was unknown to us on the street. It didn't contain cops or prisoners. "Maybe munitions," said one neighbor.

This is certainly a different direction than the CHPD's typical strategy against street dealers (i.e: move them from one street to another, change nothing). I prefer solutions that offer more appealing alternatives to hanging out in the street, and that encourage my neighbors to get outside, walk around, and meet each other.

Will this Big Bust make a difference? Nunn Street is still blocked off as I post this, and frustrated drivers are turning around in my driveway.



JD--Show me the data that says imprisonment deters crime. Next go look at programs such as the infamous midnight basketball and their impact as a crime deterrent. If you know anything about behavioral psychology, you should understand that punishment is always less effective than positive reinforcement.

I didn't say these individual drug dealers shouldn't be held accountable for their actions. But I do think that communities need to address the underlying causes that steer some individuals into a negative lifestyles. When kids feel that they have choices, whether that comes from a strong family or community support, I think they are more likely to make responsible lifestyle decisions. I don't accept that people are born bad, some are just born luckier.


I don't discount the importance of all the positive support systems you mentioned. But we still need enforcement (another point we seem to agree on). There are plenty of kids in that neighborhood born just as "unlucky" who don't sell crack, real or fake. Maybe people aren't born good or bad, but at some point people do decide to be one or the other.

You may want to characterize punishment as a last resort, but it needs it needs to be an option and sounds like it needed to be tried in this situation. Things had gone on too long.

I've enjoyed reading the many viewpoints expressed about the issues affecting the Northside community. In a nutshell - you're all right! Housing options (or lack of same), employment and educational opportunities (or lack of same), law enforcement initiatives (or lack of same), opportuntities for alternate sources of entertainment (or lack of same) are all factors that need to be addressed if we as a community are going to be successful at returning Northside to the neighborhood it was when I started patroling in 1975.

We've tried - and continue to try - community outreach programs, summer employment programs for Northside and public housing youth, high visibility patrols, arrests, drug courts, Project Turn Around, neighborhood marches, coordinated efforts with schools, churches and social service agencies, etc. Many have short-term benefits. Hopefully some benefits will be long-term.

We cannot, nor do we intend to try, to "arrest" our way out of this problem. Though necessary some of the time, and critical at other times, arrests are probably one of the least effective long-term solutions to the problems faced by residents of Northside.

It's gratifying to see so many people concerned about this community and the many initiatives underway to improve the quality of life for its residents. I don't have all of the answers. No one does. But if we all resolved to do something, we could make a difference.

Finally, wouldn't it be great to hear from those residents who have lived under these difficult circumstances for many years to see what they want done.

Neighborhood meetings are held the second Tuesday of the month. Other special events are planned. Please contact Delores Bailey at EmPowerment for an updated schedule of events. Or, if others have events planned, please make sure that the events are posted for all to join.

I look forward to working with all of you in addressing the needs of our Northside neighbors.

Chief Jarvies,

I think it is great you actually read this thread and took the time to respond. We have a council member and an alderman participating here, but you are the first high profile staff member I've noticed. Thanks!


I just want to echo Terri's thanks to Chief Jarvies for his attention here. I have worked with him since he was assigned to such lowly tasks as mediating relationships between raucous neighbors on Pritchard Avenue (of which I was apparently one). He consistently exceeds expectations/stereotypes for his position.

That said... how about foot patrols, Chief? Are they hapenning? How much and where?

Thanks so much for commenting on Chief Jarvies! It makes a BIG difference to have you participate. THANK YOU!

Chief jarvies wrote:
Finally, wouldn't it be great to hear from those residents who have lived under these difficult circumstances for many years to see what they want done.

YES! I couldn't have said it better! It is key that the wishes and dreams of all community members are respected. Thanks for reminding us Chief.

Unfortunately our discussions online are an example of the digital divide and how it can separate us. It's real easy to forget how fortunate we are to be able to spend so much time debating on

The Internet can be a great forum for developing creative solutions....if you have the time & money to think about it.

Lets all work together to bring the positive power of technology to the people.

Here's the latest in the continuing story of the Nunn Street Crack House. The Chapel Hill Herald reports that charges were dropped against the owner, Ms. Farrington, as she is too ill to assist in her defense. Plus the case was a straw man anyway, they said so from the start.

I hope Chief Jarvies is right when he is quoted in this article as saying the problem appears to have been solved.

But later the article says:

Last week, two tenants who rented rooms in the house moved out, and later this week, family members are scheduled to board up the house, Jarvies said. The house will remain vacant until the family can make decisions about what to do with it, he added.

So I'm now looking forward to a vacant, boarded-up house down the street. I'm sure that will really enhance the neighborhood.

Brian--maybe you, Ruby and other concerned neighbors could put in a request to the Town Council to install a few computers at Hargraves Center as a first community network project ( The CHCCS schools might be willing to participate too since there are a lot of kids in the neighborhood. I'll be happy to contribute some of my time and energy to assist.

Good idea, Terri - in fact they've already done it (although they may not be making the best use of it): &

I think it's time to go to the next level. Maybe an open broadband wireless network and free wireless cards for families. Or how about some new fangled technology like - oh, I don't know - foot patrols?

Perhaps the digital divide is worthy of a new thread, particularly as a new school year is starting.

I have had an ongoing conversation with Ray Reitz, the CHCCS CIO, about efforts to work on the digital divide for households with students. They have some great plans to provide thin clients, education, and internet access to student households which would not have the means and experience to otherwise leverage such technology. He is also working with OCS to share the knowledge.

One great thing about the program is that the thin client is easy to manage and hard to mess-up from a virus, etc. point of view. It also provides access to Microsoft Office which runs on central servers and allows students to print papers and assignments on a printer at school so that no printer upkeep is required in the home.

There are two primary gaps in the basic digital divide from a technology standpoint. This program bridges the first gap. The second gap is high speed access to each home.

I emailed Ray to determine if he has documented this plan on a webpage yet and to see if they are working with folks on the Hargraves project to share info.


That is a good idea Terri. :-)

I just joined the Americorps VISTA program and I am helping a local nonprofit with their tech needs. It's going to keep me full time busy for the next year. :-) But I'd like to volunteer in my neighborhood when I can. (I have ideas all the time actually... :-D )

Consulting Nate Davis, who runs the Hargraves Center, might be a good first step. I'm finding that identifying real needs is the very first thing to do. Allot of the "needs" that I think people have they don't. In other words providing wi-fi and/or broadband modems may *not* be the communities first need. It could be, just a guess, that a PR program to excite youth about computers instead of hanging on the street are needed first. A much more difficult challenge than showing someone how to use a web browser. (In my humble estimation)

I would be willing to bet that these types of programs have been thought about and even implemented. Encouraging the Town of Chapel Hill to REALLY support such projects and the Hargraves Center in general could help to.

What *are* the Hargraves Center's pressing and long term needs?

As far as bridging the digital divide, the problem is that the town does not have an integrated technology plan. For example, the website Ruby referred me to isn't one I've seen before because I've always gone through the town website looking at the Town Departments links. Right now Parks and Rec does whatever they want with technology as does transporation, and all the other departments. Until we can get some degree of communication/consolidation between the departments, I don't think Chapel Hill will be following Carrboro's community wi-fi network.

Maybe one way to get the Northside residents participating on OP is to invite individuals who are leaders in the neighborhood to sign on and bring others.


The chccs folks helped write the Hargraves grant and I think having computers in as many places as possible is great.

Families with the in-home thin client get several free months of service, then they have to pay $10/month. And, it ties up the phone line, which is a problem for writing a long paper. I agree that this would be better if it were free, but the benefits remain with regards to training, no capital costs, low maintenance.

This program has been in place for several years as you mentioned, but it is my understanding that there will be an effort to significantly broaden it this year.


Mark P--the CHCCS technology plan has been in place for about 3 years. In terms of home access, the family must pay for the access, but the school system has contracted with a low cost carrier (less than $10 per month I believe). The problem is that some families still can't afford that--which is why having community resources like Hargraves is so important. There's also some problems with speed of access with Citrix (the thin client) through a dial up connection.

What I think would be worth pursuing is replicating the model the Edwards family has created through their Wade Edwards Learning Lab at Broughton HS. It's a technology center where kids can go after school and get help with their homework, learn about technology, and/or collaborate on projects together (with or without technology). Hargraves could potentially be used to created something similar. Providing alternative activities for kids, especially in those critical middle school years, is one way of keeping them from joining the criminal world.

Ruby--what DO you want to happen with the house? The FAMILY has chosen to boared it up until they can make a decision--one assumes because they want to keep out "undesirables" (read "dealers") and to make the job easier for the police. (No one has ANY business being on a boarded up property.) I'm not being sarcastic, I'm not being flip--I'm sincere--what DO you want? What would be your ideal scenario?

What do the other neighbors wnat done with this property?


I have enjoyed reading this thread, it is interesting to read the various
viewpoints. I am glad to see Chief Gregg Jarvies as a participant.

Every year we spend more money on free and empty buses than we do on police
protection. Patrols have not increased, even though Chapel Hill has expanded
(e.g., Southern Village). I encourage you to review the town budgets. I believe
and agree that the transit is a problem. However, nothing is free! I think the
free buses are at the expense of expanded patrols.



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