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How To Live Next To A Heroin House.
It's never a pretty sight no matter the setting. via

It’s never a pretty sight no matter the setting. via

A move to the suburbs in most cities means a move away from drugs and crime. Not Portland, Oregon.

My inner eastside apartment was too dangerous for a young family. Houses had metal barred windows and bad yards.

The juice was never changing. It was a bad neighborhood that was staying bad, which turned out wrong.

Now the eastside of Portland is where it’s happening for food, drink, and music.

Seems it started turning right after I left.

Part of suburban life, at least a part I looked forward to, was the bus ride into town. I’m a fan of mass transit and those who make it feel like a party every day.

Since I was the new guy on the 12 I watched and listened to my new transit pals. They were a lively group.

The first ride in was good, but the ride out was another story.

The crowd had thinned out before my stop. Two men in front of me had this conversation:

“You can’t open a beer on the bus, man.”

“The only reason I’m on this bus is to keep my shoes. Last time I slept on the street downtown, someone stole them right off my feet. If I want a beer, I’ll open a beer.”

“And we’ll get kicked off.”

“Anyone tries that, I’ve got a gun that’ll do the talking. We’ll take this bus to drink beer if we have to.”

I got off right away and took a longer walk home.

I turned onto my new street that day feeling like King of the World. House, yard, wife, one kid with another on the way. It felt good.

Then I looked down and saw a syringe. Needles in the street? I stomped it and kicked into the bushes. Touch it? No.

My new neighbor said the street was a parking lot for addicts who ran through our yards to a house on the next street to buy heroin. He said traffic was slowing down.

A couple of years later I had DEA agents run through my yard looking for a suspect. They were very polite, but I could see them ordering someone on the ground and mean it.

Flip the calendar forward a few years more and kids from the local high school, young people a few years out of school were arrested, their faces on the local news.

Today a story pops up on about a heroin house bust. It’s the same house with some of the same people. One of them was a feature story for drug counseling success while he was in jail. He lives in the H-house after a relapse.

The story calls it a livability issue since it’s not a major dealer house. More of a shooters den and neighbors spoke up.

Do you live near a known drug house? What would you do? What if you lived a few doors down from a suspected gun house?

A gun house, one where a deceased partner collected an arsenal from business clients who didn’t want them in their house after their husbands died, isn’t the same as a drug house. Knock on a junkies’ door and the smell might floor you. Knock on a gun house and you might get floored by, well, a gun.

Talking to neighbors about traffic all hours of the night make it sound like a drug house, but the gun issue is still there. A junkie with a gun is no one’s idea of a party.

Police cruise the neighborhood more frequently. Two cops came up, parked their car, flipped the hammer guard on their holsters, and walked down for a chat.

The rest of us are encouraged to take notes and license plate numbers of cars we see. The old saying “snitches get stitches” came to mind, except it’s about guns.

My take away from this drugs and guns deal? Even the nicest neighborhoods have an underbelly of people who don’t care about keeping up a facade of decency. The place has CCR’s about what you can and can’t do to your house, where to store your trash cans, but nothing about drug houses and gun houses.

Is it time to get involved, or time to move?





About David Gillaspie


  1. Gary bowen says:

    Unfortunately this is a problem throughout America, there have been times while on patrol I have experienced just one out-of-control teenager hooked on drugs literally on his own terrify an entire otherwise solid neighborhood.

    On an entirely other note, 2 to 4 gangbangers suddenly appearing on a very small town street corner in Smallville Montana literally overnight causing all source havoc within the community. Troubling to me, is the fact that many of the small towns only have a constable, who has been working the job four 32,000 a year for over 42 years. Yet, nobody is willing to step up and take his place. Often times the constable does not even have a volunteer force to rely on as backup.

    Problems with drug sales users even alcoholic’s is the fact they can be very scary and unpredictable. With the ever-growing population in our world today and well into the future can make this whole retirement/relocation a very daunting task indeed. None of these situations spoken of have easy answers nor widely excepted solutions when it flares up in a guy’s backyard suddenly. I had one just recently, next-door a very pitiful situation that the bank or mortgage company responsible for allowing this young man and his girlfriend to move in was in no way shape or form in any position to sustain such a property. Over the course of many months I watched this new age human economic opportunity Grant go to shit in a hand basket but? I suppose some people just have to Pee on the electric fence so as to find out for themselves. This fellow did.

    Mixing drugs and alcohol he eventually was found dead in his home. GunShot wound to the head.

    Now this particular home next-door is undergoing a second repo process during my 22 years living here.

    So what has made life bearable here all these years? Well? First off I’d have to say, very careful security evaluation of how the neighborhood is laid out. It was important for me to buy a lot and a specific position within our housing map. I understand how burglars and their modes of ingress and egress and typical neighborhood vandals operate.

    Secondly, I hardened up my whole backyard with a 7 1/2 foot brick wall which will stop errant bullets but also neighbors pitbull fighting dogs charging through those old grape-steak fences! All landscaping front and back are kept to a minimal so as to make it difficult for neighborhood miscreants of all types to hide. Then of course is lighting cameras so on so forth if the person wants to invest as I already have a pretty good alarm system. The wife and I are still open whether to stay or relocate when she retires. As you can imagine, we have all sorts of concerns about where we could be happiest in our upcoming senior years.

    Getting back to the problem at hand, regards to being painted as a snitch, get your concerned neighbors together and talk about hiring a private investigator who will sit on this offending neighbor for you obtaining video and photographic criminal evidence to include testimony in court if needed. This will in the long run Rid you of the troublesome burden living amongst you if you are happy where you are now. I have known plenty who have relocated only to be once again become very disappointed in their decision. It is very stressful.

    In the event you choose to relocate, I would sit down and make a serious list of neighborhood concerns and then conduct your own neighborhood investigation before I bought anywhere into a community I knew or know nothing about other than what the real estate agent spouts off about, after all she wants to make the sell. It is not her job nor her concern whether or not the felon brothers live right next door, across the street or Johnny three houses down who owns a race car storing 50 gallon barrels of nitrous alongside his garage… In my years of experience neighborhood investigations if conducted properly can lead to all sorts of findings that in the long run reveal the many reasons why the house you might be considering is for sale to begin with!

    I find most interesting buyers have no problem hiring a home inspector but think nothing about conducting yet another most important assessment, a neighborhood security assessment.

    Taking the appropriate precautions can save a potential buyer hundreds of thousands not to mention his sanity and overall well-being simply by conducting a neighborhood investigation.

    • David Gillaspie says:

      Heck of a comment, Gary. I like your fence. Finding stories of drugs and guns in a nice quiet street are the last thing expected, but maybe the first to look for in a potential new neighborhood.

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