Thursday, August 28, 2008

Was a Crack Pipe Sting on Lafayette Street a Waste of Time?

Posted By on Thu, Aug 28, 2008 at 2:06 PM

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The Sankari family just can’t seem to avoid trouble. The Syrian clan appeared in the pages of Scene (and here on Pith) a few weeks back for administering a group beatdown to 18-year-old family member Yaman Sankari. After Yaman admitted to having sex with her 28-year-old boyfriend, her father, grandmother, grandfather, two uncles and an aunt kicked and punched her about the face and body, according to police reports. Now the family business, Fast Service Market on 175 Lafayette Street, has become the target of a police sting. According to affidavits and a press release from Metro cops, police have been staking out three convenience stores—including Fast Service Market—near the crime ridden projects on Lafayette Street. The stores sell glass tubes, sometimes advertised as flower holders or other innocuous gewgaws that ingenious junkie craftsmen turn into crack pipes. It’s legal to sell these things -- only if the seller knows they won't be used to wolf crack. So police wired-up informants and sent them into the store to ask for “crack pipes” and chore boys—steel wool used as filters. Mohamed Y. Sankari, Mohamed N. Sankari and Ahmed Sankari—Yaman’s uncle, father and uncle, respectively—didn't seem to sense the sting and were arrested. Bond is set at $5,000. Spend any time on Lafayette Street or Murfreesboro Road, as it’s called further south, and you will see a neighborhood held fast in the grip of poverty, prostitution and addiction. Hookers service customers under the 65/40 interchange. You can see them stumbling out from behind bushes, pants half down, a sheepish and sated John trailing close behind. At night, the place is crawling with addicts who hang in front of stores like the Fast Service Market. They do the junkie shuffle, walking in circles or crossing back and forth across the street, acting in a hurry to get to nowhere. Drugs have a lot to do with the high crime rate in the area and shootings are a regular occurrence. Still, I’m not sure that targeting the only businesses brave enough to invest in the neighborhood is the best use of police resources. Paraphernalia busts are a little silly on their face. I can walk into a store, ask for a glass tube and chore boy, and walk out without breaking the law. If I refer to those same products by another name and the store sells them to me, it can be charged with selling paraphernalia. How is this good public policy? A junkie is quite clever when it comes to getting high and will find a way to rock-up, no matter what materials are available. Playing name games with crack pipes and Philly blunts will do nothing to deter hard-core users. Then there's the matter of police resources. The police spent two weeks on this investigation. How many shifts did the cops pull, just sitting in front of these stores? They utilized wires and mics that could have been used in any number of other more beneficial operations. The cops also used valuable confidential informants for these busts. Can these CIs safely be used again now that the street knows who they are? Nobody wants crack heads running amok in any neighborhood, and after the Sankari family allegedly brutalized one of there own, those folks seem pretty indefensible. But in addition to crack pipes and beer, those convenience stores are also the few places in the neighborhood that sell milk, eggs and snacks, to say nothing of condoms and tampons. There must be a way to get these stores to stop selling pipes without dragging the owners into jail and possibly shuttering the only retail enterprises on the block. Unfortunately for the non-drug using denizen, the crack heads will still be there tomorrow, even if the neighborhood market isn’t. Above are mug shots of Yaman Sankari's family. Left to right they are: Uncle Ahmed Sankari, Grandmother Fatima Chabarek, Aunt Manal Sankari, Father Mohamed Sankari, Grandfather Nazir Sankari. Below is Yaman's Uncle Mohamed Y. Sankari.
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