Prostitution, Drugs Leave Aurora For Side Streets -- Barricades, More Lights May Block Off Area Turned Into `Cesspool'

Seattle police are proposing to temporarily block off a neighborhood near Aurora Avenue North that's riddled with prostitutes and drug dealers.

Residents of the Licton Springs neighborhood and merchants of Aurora Avenue have heard police proposals for, among other things, ``barricading'' a section of Nesbit Avenue, just east of Aurora Avenue, for a month.

The neighborhood would be closed to all but residents between North 85th and North 90th streets and between Aurora North and Stone Avenue North on North 88th Street from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Seattle Police Capt. Larry Farrar said the move is only one step in a larger plan to clean up the area. The plan is subject to resident approval and legal review within the department. He and others in the department say it would be the first time for such a measure here.

Calling the area a ``cesspool of illegal activity,'' Officer Michael Magan of the department's Com-

munity Police Team has proposed using wooden barricades with reflective tape or flashing lights to detour traffic. Signs would be posted, reading: ``Local Residents Only.''

The proposal will be discussed at a community meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in the Rose Room of North Seattle Community College.

Cat Newsheller, president of the Licton Springs Community Council, said the group worked with police and endorses the plan.

``It appears to me that the inconvenience of walking a block or two to your house would be better than walking by a drug deal or prostitutes turning tricks,'' she said.

Farrar said the neighborhood has not benefited from police efforts to clean up Aurora Avenue North the past few years. Drug sales and prostitution that plagued the strip spilled over onto Nesbit.

The barricades would be used on a trial basis to eliminate offenders' access to the neighborhood, according to police. It would be accentuated by police patrols and increased surveillance, tree and shrub trimming and added lighting.

North 88th Street and Stone Avenue North would remain open to allow residents to enter and exit during the evening and early morning.

The fire department has OK'd use of the barricades as long as they are readily removable.

The plan also has the support of the Aurora Avenue Merchants Association, said Faye Garneau, treasurer of the group.

``No citizen likes to see streets closed, but the association will back the closure on a temporary basis to assist police in determining who these people are and where they are coming from,'' said Garneau. ``We think the problem has been cleaned up to a large degree on the Avenue, but if this helps, we're for it.''

Farrar said the problem has been around for at least 18 months.

He and Newsheller said condoms and drug needles are occasionally found on the streets and drug deals are made on front lawns.

One resident has a mannequin's head peering from his window above a sign that reads, ``No Drug Scum.'' A bull's-eye board, torn by bullet holes, is tacked to his door.

Monica Baker and her husband moved from the area after they saw a drug dealer eyeing them while pounding a baseball bat against the palm of his hand.

``We were there for two years and it got progressively worse,'' said Baker, who has moved to Ballard. ``We had prostitutes sitting on our curb waiting for customers. We saw the drug dealers. I was afraid to even go outside during the day.''

The blocks consist mainly of apartments with scattered pockets of houses. Several of the inexpensive motels that line Aurora also have access to Nesbit.

Farrar said the steps are necessary to tackle the problem that regular patrols have failed to resolve.

``We're trying to look at something creative, something other than the typical Band-Aid approach,'' said Farrar. ``Typically the cops come and the problem leaves - and comes back as soon as the cop leaves.''

The plan also calls for motels on Aurora to install gates to prevent traffic from passing through them onto Nesbit, and for the phone company to hook up local pay phones so that calls can not be returned.

Magan said police could issue trespassing and traffic citations as well as arrest drug and prostitution customers.

Newsheller said she was told by police a similar tactic was used, apparently with success, by officers in Lansing, Mich.

Fred Treadwell, a police legal adviser, said he is still studying the idea, but said it appeared to be a new concept.

``It would sort of be like what we do at certain neighborhoods near Husky games,'' said Treadwell. ``But generally it is done to prevent public-safety hazards, not altering the indirect effect that the cars may have on a neighborhood.

``I have enough concern about it to study what ordinances give us the authority.''