Gray, District Officials Crack Down on Ward 8 Shops

Elto Hayes | 7/18/2012, 4:58 p.m.

As the group entered the carryout - one of 13 stores and gas stations visited as part of the walkthrough - Gray approached a shop employee who stood behind bulletproof glass. Shortly after, the employee opened the side door to let him in so that the two could talk privately. Within minutes, the employee began to remove boxes of rolling papers, cigars and other drug paraphernalia from shelves. "People understand why we are here," Gray said as he walked to his next stop.

"They know that we are developing an even more aggressive approach to having this drug paraphernalia out of our stores and in these communities."

The magnitude of the problem became evident when the group entered the Dollar Plus Food Store. More than 50 boxes of flavored cigars, which some customers use to smoke marijuana, lined the counter behind the cash register. Stops at other businesses uncovered loose cigarettes and hookah pipes, used to smoke tobacco or marijuana.

"For the sake of a few pennies, they are selling the souls of our children to the devil," Akhter said. "Once they start smoking, they start using drugs and get involved in criminal activity, and then they end up in the justice [system] and in jail. And the community pays for all of those things in addition to what happens to the individuals themselves."

"It's much simpler for us to be able to prevent people from smoking and from doing drugs than it is to reach them when they are already in the middle of it."

Gray's efforts were met with little resistance as merchants allowed the mayor and agency heads to dispose of the drug paraphernalia and loose cigarettes. District officials hope that the follow-up visits planned for Monday, July 16 will ensure that merchants are doing more than just offering lip service.

"We're indicating to them that this is a warning today if they have drug paraphernalia, and the next time, there will be a $2,000 fine," Gray said. "They've indicated that they would conform. We'll find out."