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Police crack down in East Lebanon
Jul 20, 2005 12:00 am
July 19, 2005
The recent, still-unsolved shooting of a high school cheerleader has resulted in a police crackdown in an area of East Lebanon which is home to two frequently problem-plagued public housing developments.
Lebanon police over the weekend intensified its presence in the area, using Friday night to stage a sobriety checkpoint on Baddour Parkway near the Upton Heights and Inman Court public housing developments.
Officers with the federal bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Fireams and the Drug Enforcement Administration joined in the operation, Lebanon Public Safety Commissioner Billy Weeks said.
The roadblock – and occasional pursuit of those who attempted to avoid it – resulted in 25 arrests, Police Chief Scott Bowen said.
Most of those taken into custody were charged with drug possession or possession of drug paraphernalia, he said.
"We had a couple of people, after we talked to them, who admitted they were in that area to buy drugs," Bowen said. "That alone would make it all worthwhile."
Weeks said the operation was the first of several planned for that section of town, long designated a "high-crime area" by police.
"When it's not a high-crime area anymore, then that's when we will leave," he said. "I know of one instance where we made four arrests in a single traffic stop, so that tells me we certainly needed to be paying some extra attention to that area."
He said state probation and parole officers were occasionally on hand at the checkpoint, successfully identifying several suspects wanted for parole or probation violations.
"We felt like it was well worth our time, if for no other reason than we didn't have any serious crimes reported in those areas while we were out there," Weeks said.
He said the recent wounding of a Lebanon High School cheerleader inside one of the public housing development's was the catalyst for the crackdown.
"We'd been planning to do some extra work, but certainly that prompted us to get right on it a lot faster," Weeks said. "We know for a fact that witnesses saw an innocent girl get shot and nobody has seen fit to step forward. As far as I'm concerned we'll stay up there until we find out who did it."
The teenager was in critical condition for several days with a gunshot wound to the chest, but is now believed to be well on the road to recovery.
Authorities have said she was not an "intended target" of the shooting, but have been unable to determine if she was hit by a stray slug intended for someone else or if her wounding resulted from simply discharging a gun into the air – something that has caused police to be called to both public housing developments frequently in recent months.
"As far as I'm concerned, getting to the bottom of that alone would be enough reason to have more officers out there, but we have several other rationales for it as well," Weeks said.
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at email@example.com.