Kari Zielke says she's fed up with drug activity in her neighborhood near Lafayette School  and is inviting folks to stop by for a sit-in at noon Saturday to raise awareness of the problem. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

Kari Zielke says she’s fed up with drug activity in her neighborhood near Lafayette School and is inviting folks to stop by for a sit-in at noon Saturday to raise awareness of the problem. TAMMY WELLS/Journal Tribune

SANFORD — Kari Zielke says there’s a lot of foot traffic and vehicular traffic in her east side neighborhood. Down a side street, well within sight of her home, she said a steady stream of folks stop outside a three story tenement, go inside for a minute or two and then leave. Late at night, she said she’s observed vehicles with Connecticut license plates — a high-priced Lincoln Navigator at one time and a Lamborghini in another — stop briefly, while someone from one of the apartments comes out, an exchange of something is made, and the car pulls away.

She said she has found used heroin needles on her front porch, on the side of the street, on the doorstep of a vacant home and in her trash.

A little more than a year ago, one of her children said “Mom, there’s an ambulance outside,” Zielke said. Rescue personnel brought a girl from a nearby apartment building to a waiting ambulance. The 18-year-old had overdosed.

“My kids saw that,” she said.

The girl later died in the hospital.

Not long ago, a man was walking his toddler son on the sidewalk and the boy stepped on a needle, which lodged in the sole of his sandal. It didn’t piece the child’s flesh, but it could have, she said.

And on the first day of classes at Lafayette School,  just down the street, the little ones  were outside for fire drill when a man drove up, his passenger got out briefly and went to the tenement and returned to the car. Zielke said the driver put a needle in his arm, slumped briefly over the wheel and then shook himself  then drove off. Zielke said she saw it, and so did a neighbor.

“He could have crashed,” she said. 

Zielke said she’s is fed up, She estimated that in July, at the height of activity, 75 to 100 people a day stop outside the tenement in question.

So she posted the Maine criminal statute pertaining to drug sales on the porch outside her home and is inviting folks to gather in the neighborhood  at noon on Saturday for a sit-in. 

Zielke ,her husband and their five children live in a neat two story home on the corner of Thompson Street and what is considered the “quiet” end of Island Avenue. They can see a corner of the playground at Lafayette School from her kitchen. She knows the tenement a few blocks away — where she believes drug sales are taking place — is also well within 1,000 feet of the elementary school.  Zielke also knows that charges against those dealing drugs can be enhanced when the sale takes place within 1,000 feet of a school. After the folks are charged by police, she wants the York County District Attorney’s Office to move forward with prosecution.

“No more plea bargains,” said Zielke.

Police Chief Tom Connolly said his officers would love to oblige by charging suspects and said he understands Zielke’s’s frustration.

“I encourage people to keep calling,” said Connolly. He also said folks need to understand police  are constrained by the rule of law and of evidence.

 “If you think you see something exchange something, (that could constitute) reasonable suspicion, which allows up to make a brief investigatory  stop to see if criminal activity is afoot,” said Connolly, as an ezample. But he noted that stop has to take place relatively soon after the alleged sighting and noted that in stops made under reasonable suspicion, suspects are not obliged to consent to a search of their vehicle.

 “I love it when citizens take an interest in their community,” said Connolly. “ I wish everyone would call police when there’s something going on. If you see something, call me and tell me.”

Zielke is hoping for a good turnout on Saturday for the sit-in. She encourages folks to bring their kids to the school playground and just hang out in the neighborhood.

“I’m trying to get people in the neighborhood not to be afraid of drug dealers,” Zielke said. “If you’re afraid of them, they’ll get away with it.”

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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