WMAN advised about illegal drug activity on W. Pomona Street

A residential block with a “serious drug problem” in Germantown has turned to its nearby Mt. Airy neighbors for help.

West Mt. Airy Neighbors Quality of Life Committee Chair Dan Rhoton says residents on West Pomona Street—which technically is in Germantown—are asking for help from WMAN. Rhoton says the Pomona Street residents claim their own neighborhood organization, the Pomono Cherokee Civic Association, didn’t do enough.

Neighbors were contacted by NewsWorks through Rhoton and would not comment for this story.

Rhoton says neighbors told him it’s been difficult to eliminate the problem because dealers disappear when the police are around but start up again once they’re out of sight.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Pomona Street residents, according to Rhoton, say the drug dealers operate as a team. Neighbors have witnessed a complex watch system where those involved can quickly alert others of police presence, since Germantown Ave. is in plain sight. W. Pomona Street juts off from Germantown Ave. and ends abruptly after two blocks.

Rhoton says the location is serving dealers well because it’s an easy in and out for customers.

Rhoton was also told there are drugs hidden in multiple yards and when a customer visits the transactions are fast.

Residents there have indicated are not just worried about drugs in their neighborhood, they report the drug operations sometimes results in gunfire.

Fourteenth district captain Joel Dales said police is aware of the problem and has made three arrests in February.

In December 2011, he said, police made several arrests and recovered guns. All activity happened at 129 W. Pomona, he said.

Dales said he hasn’t received many complaints from neighbors, but the police department is doing its own investigation.

Rhoton says neighbors are frightened for their safety and suggests maybe that’s why they went to WMAN instead of the police.

This isn’t the first time WMAN has dealt with drug-related neighborhood issues.

About three years ago, Rhoton says, there was a drug operation on Phil Ellena Street that only went away because neighbors took very specific steps that allowed the city to intervene.

First, there’s what he calls role call, where residents asked police to continually visit the neighborhood.

“It helps them put pressure on [the drug operation],” he said.

However, Rhoton said a lot of neighbors aren’t prone to partake in this first activity because of fear. But he encourages them to do anonymous tips.

Rhoton also says that some neighbors started recording the license plate numbers of customers and telling police where drugs were hidden.

Second, Rhoton says WMAN has looked into whether any problem properties have any zoning issues that require attention from the city’s Department of Licenses & Inspection.

Ultimately, Rhoton said it was a zoning matter that ended the drug problem on Phil Ellena Street.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal