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September 09, 1976 - Image 18

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1976-09-09

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

-Page. Elght

THE MICHIGAN DAILY

TN

Page E1ght~ THE MICHIGAN DAILY
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hursdciy, September 9, 19 10

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DAILY CLASSIFIEDS
BRING QUICK RESULTS

'The

Block': City's

haven

of vice

By DAVID WHITING
and MICHAEL YELLIN
Students are far between on
The Block, where the dice roll,
the numbers run, the skin pops
and people hustle for a living.
Located two blocks from City
Hall, just east of the county jail
on Ann St., The Block is the
black hub of the city's heroin
trafficking and fencing of stolen
goods.
PROSTITUTES, junkies, gam-
blers and thieves converge on
the Derby Bar, which serves
as the front office for many
local hustlers. What is not sold
inside is available in some near-
by parked car or the unnamed
game hall two doors up.
"It's just like a little Detroit

210
GO

down here, maybe a little small-
er, friendlier," says Roxanne, a
young woman in describing the
area. "Everybody knows every-
body."
The Block's small size creates
a tightly-knit community which
allows hustlers to know their
competition as well as their
customers.
LOPENZO, a self-styled gam-
bler speaking from beneath the
brim of a Fedora carefully cap-
ping his shaved head, says, "I
could tell you who does what,
where and when, but you see, I
don't know you."
A musty atmosphere clings to
the Derby, located next door to
the Salvation Army's Red Shield
store. Within ten minutes of
walking into the bar, someone
will often slide up and, just
above the juke-box blare,
hoarsely whisper, "Hey are you
nice for the evening? You want
to buy some drugs?"
Although the black market
sales-persons are aware that
"The people making thebig
money are white and rich,"
they maintain their self-respect
through style and grace.
"WE DON'T sell no dime bags
down here," says Sam, a street
merchant, coolly discussing a
heroin sale. "You can't get
nothing less than $20 worth
down here."
Money is a prime concern on
The Block, and pocketing more
of the green stuff through vir-
tually any means is acceptable.
"My cousin comes in here to
sell stereos and shit," Gale, a
young high school drop-out free-

':
.SY

HQ

UN A l-)(

ly admits. But she is calmly
alert to the harsh methods
sometimes used in transactions
:n The Block. "My girlfriend's
old man was stabbed here last
week over four dollars."
Leroy, a long-time regular,
explains why vice is so preva-
lent on The Block. "Most peo-
ple here are trying to survive.
If given the chance, anyone
would hustle."
BUYING and selling narcotics
and stolen goods are the appa-
rent mainstays of illegal busi-
ness on Ann St., but they are
not the only vices sold. Prosti-
tutes are usually available while
cards, craps and the unofficial
D a ig y Double' areplayed
throughout the week. Says one
young woman who makes a
point of sitting down with stran-
gers, "Nobody going to come
over and sit down and talk to
you unless they've got business
-such as young women.'
While nickel and dime card
games are common in the Der-
by bar, the real gambling goes
on at the game hall two doors
up the street.
Past the pool table, the pin-.
ball machine and the sandwich
counter the action begins. Five
dollar bills are strewn across a
felt-covered craps table, and
the sounds-clicking ivory and
the call of "five and a quarter"
-remind one of Reno. The
stakes on any given toss often
total $25, which some 15 men
hope to win.
JOE HALL, operator of -the
game hall, blames poor law en-
forcement for the illegal deal-
ings on the Block. "If police
don't do nothing, there's nothing
much I can do."
But while virtually everyone
admits a problem exists, no
one has proposed a solution that
will end the heroin trafficking,
prostitution, gambling and fenc-
ing of stolen goods on the 100
block of Ann St.
In one month alone this year,
police confronted one assault,
three fights, two felonious as-
saults and two narcotics trans-
actions on the Block. "They op-
erate big, and they operate in
the basements," observes Police
Chief Walter Krasny.
HE REPORTS that police at-
tempts to close down The
Block's illegal operations have
been ineffective. "It's like swat-
ting at flies."
Hand-in-hand with The Block's
wear of violence is a pervading
suspicion of the establishment
and the law.

Yvonne is one young woman
who has found the police to be
a too often and unwelcome in-
trusion into her life. "The po-
lice arrested my boyfriend, Rod
for larceny. He's been in Jack-
son (state prison) for 15 months.
Cops come in The Derby and
hassle people. Like Gregory,
they hassled him last week.
Thought he was pushing some
drugs up his arm. Last month
they came in here and hassled
Cheryl, thought she was push-
ing drugs up her arm."
On the establishment's side,
Krasny points out that the po-
lice receive little assistance
from The Block's customers
when trying to make an arrest
in the neighborhood. "It's a
question of coming up with suf-
ficient evidence to charge them.
They're pretty sharp. Some-
times there's a shooting and
when the police arrive you've
got a dead man and no wit-
nesses. I don't know how you
solve the problem though," he
adds resignedly. "I've been
here 37 years and it hasn't im-
proved."

ALTHOUGH M a y o r Albert should be done, but he has yet
Wheeler agrees that The Block to move on the issue. "We
does pose severe law-enforce- shold try to do something about
ment problems to police, he be- 'he physical street itself. The
lieves, in contrast to Krasay, }oltion is to- take away what
that the neighborhood was not :an be physically seen as a
always as rough as it now is. )roblem," he says.
"It wasn't always like that. Krasny r e g a r d s increased
It used to be a place where law-enforcement as a way of
people could go to relax and alleviating the problem. But he
have a beer," says Wheeler. contends that his officers can-
"But now there's a lot of drug not compete with the nustlers
pushing, you know heroin and because his staff is too out-
cocaine." numbered.
Wheeler appears to have the As for the area residents and l
most concerete agenda for im- hanger-oners, many have come
proving The Block and he hopes to accept their lives on The
to initiate action soon. "I'm Block. "On this side of town
hoping before my term is up neople don't get a chance to go
(next spring) that we'll have a g school," comments the gray-
soluton."ing Lorenzo. "A lot of people
suo leave but they always drift
MASSIVE restructuring of the back."
white-owned Block is wh h "Ann St. has always been the
i-k s cn same, Ann St. is Ann street,"
Wheeler has in mind. He is con-TLorenzo adds matter-of-factly.
sidering "totally replacing the "We want to change it but what
buildings there and supporting can you do?"
black ownership of businesses. N
City Administrator Sylvester sons quoted in this story have
Murray agrees that something been changed.

I

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Daily Photo by STEVE KAGAN
Men linger in a portion of "The Block" on E. Ann St. near the county jail and City Hall
The region is the center of the city's narcotics trafficking, gambling, numbers-running,
prostitution and other illicit dealings.

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