Neighbors in the Highland Park section of Upper Darby awoke Friday morning to the sound of police officers breaking down the doors of a house that had become plight of their little street. Residents had watched in horror as their street became a thoroughfare of cars stopping for a minute, sometimes in the middle of the street, then meeting someone for the exchange of money for drugs. They had even called 911 when one of their own neighbors had to be rescued by Narcan after buying his drugs only two doors away. To say the neighbors were fed up was an understatement. Relief was on the way; the neighbors just didn’t know it yet. Not until that door were broken down by our own Upper Darby Police Department.
Heroin is a surge that is taking the lives of too many people. It is not an Upper Darby problem or a Philadelphia problem. It is a national or even an international problem. There are too many lives being lost, too many families being torn apart and as the neighbors saw in Highland Park, communities being pulled apart. The house that was raided Friday was something evil. They were peddling the wares of death. The neighbors were smart. They saw it and they reported it. Not just one of the neighbors. No. this street got together and made sure law enforcement knew what was going on. Step one in how to get rid of the problem. If you see it, report it.
For residents ,not just in Upper Darby but in other neighborhoods as well, officials are looking for other ways to stop the drug traffic. One mention of how a community could be helped is by their own local government. For instance, how many times have their drug houses turned out to be rental properties? There are many good people who rent homes but they have jobs and a source of income. How is it then that someone rents an apartment to someone without any measurable income? How does the property owner think the rent is being paid? Turning their heads to the truth should come with a consequence for them. The rent is being paid out of the profit from drug sales. Ever hear of the RICO act?
When a house is found to have been in the drug dealing business, why is that landlord allowed to rent the property out again? Why not have a hearing to determine if that landlord had a hand creating this toxic environment. There has to be a way to stop these houses and apartments from becoming a blight on the neighborhood. In Upper Darby, it is so easy to get a license to be a rental property that it has become an open invitation to property developers to buy here, but not live here. On Westdale Road, an average block in the Highland Park section of Upper Darby, a third of the homes are either rental houses or have been converted to duplexes and even tri-plexes. Neighbors who own their homes have no idea who is living next door to them as renters are constantly changing. The properties themselves, many times are not kept up. Too many of the properties are eyesores and for actually home owners, disheartening.
In the fight against heroin and other drugs sales townships, counties and cities must act to protect its citizens and to root out dangerous drug dens and sales. In Upper Darby, one step that should be looked into is the connection between rental properties and drug activities. It may not be a popular choice but it is a smart one if the township wants owner occupied home growth.