COLUMBUS, Ga. -- Turn north off Cusseta Road in this small south Georgia town and watch the power lines, said the Rev. Willie Phillips of the Move Against Drugs.
A drug dealer marks his spot by tying the shoe strings of sneakers together and hanging them over a line, he said: Look for those shoes. Near them is an alleged drug house his group is targeting.
Following Phillips' directions, a reporter and photographer drive up 25th Avenue with a video camera aimed out the passenger's side window.
Sure enough, shoes hang there on a line. Beyond them, men stand in a front yard. Noticing the camera, one yells, "What the f--k is goin' on?"
That's the kind of confrontation that drug fighters such as Phillips face regularly, in their marches, night watches and campouts, as they try to drive the dealers out.
It's risky business. The windows on Phillips' van have been smashed and his tires slashed. His children, now grown, once had to leave a neighborhood school because other kids conveyed threats against their father.
It's because of his children, and others in his neighborhood, that he joined this crusade, the minister said. "They've got to see somebody standing up for right," he said. "If we don't do nothing else, we've got to stand up for our children."
His son is 21 now; his daughter 23. When they were kids, the neighborhood around Phillips' home was so dangerous that they weren't safe outside: "The children couldn't play in the street," Phillips said.
To fight back, Winterfield formed a drug-fighting group, the leaders getting training from David Lockett of Carver Heights Against Drugs.
Lockett is a veteran not only of Columbus' neighborhood drug wars, but also of Vietnam. He did two tours of combat duty, working in a six-man team on search-and-destroy missions to disrupt enemy operations. Later he served as a Ranger instructor, he said.
The Army brought him to Columbus, the home of Ft. Benning, and here he stayed, buying his home in 1968. Carver Heights Against Drugs grew out of a neighborhood watch group formed in 1990. The Move Against Drugs followed in 1996.
After all Lockett went through in combat, he doesn’t fear staring down a pusher. "It's not a challenge," he said. "They're destroying our young people."
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