Neighbors' Calls Can Topple Drug Dealers

There's a constant stream of cars pulling up to your neighbor's apartment. Funny thing is, these visitors arrive at all hours of the day and only stay for a few minutes. Most don't bother parking or turning their cars off. Some even knock on the wrong door before finding the right one.

You've suspected for weeks that your neighbor is dealing drugs but you have no proof. You don't even know your neighbor. And you haven't seen any drugs.

So what do you do?

You don't want to live next door to a drug dealer but, at the same time, you don't want to accuse an innocent neighbor.

While nobody likes the idea of playing tattletale, especially on their neighbors, police say there are times when it is difficult to avoid.

Situations involving drug sales and production are prime examples of those times.

Police suggest you give them a call. Police say the more information a caller provides them the better chance the matter will be investigated.

If a caller has details on where a suspected dealer lives and works, who he is, what he sells and who his customers might be, police can do some investigating before requesting a search warrant.

Without specific information, police can't just knock on a suspect's door and search the place without permission.

Auburn police have a new program called "Knock and Talk," in which two uniformed officers will knock at the door of a residence about which neighbors have complained.

"We tell them why we're there and, surprisingly enough, people let us in, even when they've got drug paraphernalia sitting on the kitchen table," said Officer Bill Waldroop. "We've made several arrests that way."

While "Knock and Talk" works in many cases, Waldroop said larger operations require more investigation, possibly having an undercover officer make narcotics buys. Such investigations may take several months, causing neighbors to wonder in the meantime why police don't seem to be doing anything about their complaint.

Many people are hesitant to report drug activity, just in case they're wrong.

Be assured, however, police never tell suspects where they got their information from and callers can remain anonymous.

The anonymity does not affect the priority of a report.

And what are the signs of potential drug activity?

People coming and going at all hours of the day and night, but only staying at the residence a few minutes is cause for suspicion.

A more obvious sign is if you find hypodermic needles or other drug paraphernalia. Other signs include: covered or blackened windows; no-trespassing and keep-out signs; loud humming sounds from fans; timed watering systems; a strong musty odor; large amounts of potting soil, fertilizers and hoses; and halide-light systems.

Those who notice suspected drug activity should not look around the area for additional evidence, police advise. Instead, make note of any cars or people in the area.

-- Times South bureau reporter Christy Scattarella and East bureau reporter Kay Kusumoto contributed to this report.