The overlooked drug problem

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Toward the end of last week's county commission meeting, a tearful Homer Hartage fretted that the rave-club ordinance was wrong-headed. The county, he said, focused on the drug problems at raves -- populated by white kids with disposable income -- while ignoring street crime in poorer neighborhoods.

In fact, the 10 "hot spots" singled out by Sheriff Kevin Beary as high-crime areas -- most of which lie in poor, minority neighborhoods -- went largely unnoticed by the rave-crazy commissioners. "I've seen nothing from the board," Hartage said. "It's pathetic how we treat these hot spots."

Since he started complaining, Hartage says, Beary's office has paid greater attention to those spots. But it's not enough. He worries that this year's tight budget may lead to funding cuts for the sheriff's department, though it's almost certain Beary won't let that happen.

In the meeting, Commissioner Mary I. Johnson responded: "It's a beginning, it's not perfect." A few minutes later, a unanimous board -- including a reluctant Hartage -- passed the ordinance.

"We're talking bricks and mortar," he chided the commission, "and there are kids dying all over this community. And we repeat this over and over."

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