The Big Bust of 2004

Well I didn't get a chance to join my neighbors in Northside for a night out last night, but I have walked many times past the notorious crack house on Nunn Street. My neighbors attest that this has been a known place of dealing for over 10 years. And it doesn't take an expert to see it - young men commonly stand in the middle of the street, approach slowing cars, exchange bags and bills in broad daylight.

Police got so desperate about the situation last April that they arrested the wheelchair-bound woman who lived there. She was basically trading her home for some minimal elder care from the dealers and their friends. This is not an unusual arrangement around here. I'm told by some neighbors that she recently took a turn for the worse, and her family put her into a rest home.

And I suppose her absense precipitated what hapenned tonight. While many of us were snug in our homes, happily watching Al Sharpton bring down the house in Boston, there was a LOUD BANG. I went outside to see what it could be (after the Revend finished kicking ass) and joined half a dozen neighbors kibitzing in the street.

Police had parked an unmarked car with strobe lights flashing at the entrance of Nunn Street. None could pass. Shades of the mid-90's "Operation Ready-Rock" in which Chapel Hill police received a blanket warrant allowing them to search every person and vehicle on the 100 block of North Graham Street. That bust, in which every black person on the street was searched while white people left the area, resulted in only minor quanities of drugs found.

So apparently the noise was a percussion grenade intended to stun and immobilize the many people hanging out on and near the porch of the famous house. As we looked on, people seemed to be slowly and calmly being removed from the house. Parked in the street was a huge truck (maybe unmarked, I couldn't see, but definitely not police-looking) it's purpose was unknown to us on the street. It didn't contain cops or prisoners. "Maybe munitions," said one neighbor.

This is certainly a different direction than the CHPD's typical strategy against street dealers (i.e: move them from one street to another, change nothing). I prefer solutions that offer more appealing alternatives to hanging out in the street, and that encourage my neighbors to get outside, walk around, and meet each other.

Will this Big Bust make a difference? Nunn Street is still blocked off as I post this, and frustrated drivers are turning around in my driveway.



I was sitting pretty much at ground zero when these events went down, as I live at ground zero when it comes to Nunn street and its activities. It was pretty scary when a sound like that of a small bomb went off less than 300 feet from where I sat also listening to the Reverand tear it up. I have many mixed feelings about Nunn Street, the infamous white house, and its inhabitants. The woman who owns the house is an ederly member of the neighborhod. She lives there with her older children and grandchildren. While I am sure that the young folk there doing deals on the side offer her some care, she has two sons who also live there to care for her. She has visits from nursing and care staff checking in on her atleast twice a week. She was in a situation where she wanted just some peace in her later days.

I, as her neighbor, would also like some peace. That is not what we have on the corner where Nunn, Whitaker, N. Graham, and Sykes meet. From the wee hours of the morning to the wee hours of the morning, there are the affects of the business that happens in front of my house. Most of my neighbors are very respectful folk, but not my neighbors on the corner of Nunn street. They don't care if I sleep at 3 AM. They don't care if traffic can't get through.

I know it kind of sounds silly talking about common courtesies in what seems to be a crime issue. But bottom line the neighbors of Nunn street and Northside would be a lot less concerned about the goings on at Nunn street if the goings on at Nunn street didn't affect us all. It is due to these issues that the neighbors of Northside have been putting pressure of the Chapel Hill Police Department to do something about the situation. And I guess last night they did something. But as I watch a young man from the white house at the cornter of Nunn street out of my window start his rounds on foot and and on his bike, I wonder who and what really is the answer.


So how WOULD you like the police to handle this situation? You don't seem to like it when they "move them along" but you don't seem to be happy when they do a "big bust." I'm not criticizing you--but I AM curious. How would you like to have such issues handled?


In Manhattan, I was a charter member of West Siders Against Crack. We worked in cooperation with the police, and the Gaurdian Angels.

I can tell you the biggest weapon you already have against this stuff, is your video camera. If you all get out in the street together, and video tape the dealings, it will disappear.

The Gaurdian Angels helped far more than the police, as they kicked ass when they needed to. But, the video cameras did the trick.

I don't live near this area, but would be glad to help organize you folks to take back your hood.

As for Al Sharpton, thank god he is not in my party. I will never forget Tawana Brawley, and the fraud brought on by the rev.



I'm trying to play nice, but you've misread this post. Ruby has not expressed flat-out unhappiness with the Nunn Street bust, which she appears to prefer to the "move them along" approach. From Ruby I pick up just a sort of wistful, "I wish it could be some other way," sort of vibe. And if you had stun grenades going off in your neighborhood, you might also wish it could be some other way, even if you hope some good is coming of it.

Both Donna and Ruby have expressed their wish that their neighborhood could become a place where people had alternatives to staying up all night and hanging out in the street, and where people would get around and meet each other as neighbors more often. Both of them are expressing a "wait and see" attitude toward last night's action, which I think is fair considering the number of years that residents have seen the police department take various approaches to crime in the neighborhood, with varying results.

The original post answers your combative question. She writes, "I prefer solutions that offer more appealing alternatives to hanging out in the street, and that encourage my neighbors to get outside, walk around, and meet each other."

Though Todd's constructive suggestion is appreciated, I'm afraid the problem isn't necessarily identifying and incarcerating the dealers. All of us in the neighborhood know who they are, and the police have at least one patrol car sitting directly in front of the house most all hours of the day (sometimes two). I think that solution is just going to put that many more people in jail without being reformed and other kids will step in to take their place. I think the issue is more trying to find alternatives to this path in life that are appealing and realistic for a lot of folks in that neighborhood. I'm afraid Chapel Hill and Carrboro tend to forget there are still a lot of kids growing up in our town limits who aren't necessarily headed to Princeton and still need a viable decent paying job and some place to hang out... but I don't really know the solution. Maybe we should have counselors in the school system that are willing to work with the folks that aren't planning on going to college? My understanding is that there isn't such a guidance system in the CH-Carrboro School system. Of course, Orange County Schools have such a guidance counseling system....

Hargraves Center was built with the intention that it would provide alternatives to hanging out on the street. But from what I can tell, there isn't much programming at Hargraves that would appeal to middle/high school students, those who are most at-risk of moving into the drug crowd, especially those who are responding to the peer pressure of their older neighbors.

I respectfully disagree with Rickie's assessment of the guidance program at CHCCS. The problem is that there aren't enough counselors and those that they do have are so busy with scheduling that they don't have time for much else. Scheduling for 'gifted' and 'special needs' students is very time consuming.

Wasn't trying to be comabative--HENCE the note that I wasn't criticisizing. (I avoid sarcassm in my posts, Duncan--it often fails to "read" in print.) And I failed to perceive the "wistful" tone. To me, the post came across as critical of law enforcement. Perhaps it was the phrase

"Shades of the mid-90's "Operation Ready-Rock" in which Chapel Hill police received a blanket warrant allowing them to search every person and vehicle on the 100 block of North Graham Street. " that confused me. I remember that bust. Really--this sounds NOTHING like that operation.

I withdraw the question.

Melanie/continuing to play nice

But we don't have to choose between Gifted kids and At-Risk kids. We can all live in neverneverland where there are resources for both . . . except for the 4 Million dollar whole in the budget.

Wait, I think I am on the wrong thread . . .

It's the police's fault?

It's the guidance counselors fault?

It's the community center's fault?

What about the parents???

And, what about the kids???

They have the good fortune to attend the best school system in the state, and one of the best in the country. And, no, not every child is going to Princeton. In fact, most aren't. And many don't go one to college. But only a few of them are keeping the police busy already. Even among Northside residents.

(It would be good to offer more vocational/technical instruction. That's another big plus about the Orange County schools. I hope these kids get easier access to these programs in the promised future collaboration.)

Meanwhile, these kids have a better way. It's right in front of them. They choose to go bad. They ought to have consequences which make that choice a harder one for them to make. And any adult, even one who is elderly and wheelchair-bound, who aids and abets them deserves punishment as well.

(Maybe the student influx into the neighoborhood isn't such a bad thing, compared to this crowd. In fact, why not turn those drug houses into duplexes . . . oh wait, I guess you can't do that anymore.)


Terri, I'm admittedly going on anecdotal evidence to make my claim that guidance counselors are focused on the college bound at CH schools. I know one parent who is very much supportive of her child's intention to become a mechanic. It's a respectable line of work and we need them in Chapel Hill, at least until us commie pinkos close all the roads and force everyone to use a rail/bus system. But the parent's impression is that her son can't get any guidance on how to pursue this career. I guess one could argue we're supposed to motivate him to aspire to more in life, but I don't know if I buy that...

And yes, of course the kids and parents are at fault. But have you been to Northside lately? It's not just 2 or 3 people that approach my car as I drive through. It's 5 or 6, and they are different every time . Of course, maybe they aren't from town...

And if we're going to blame somebody... you forgot all the good folks from other parts of Chapel Hill that insist on coming into my neighborhood to buy their drugs. Supply and demand you know.

Punishment has never proven to be a reliable means of changing behavior--basic behavior modification theory. Positive reinforcement of good behavior is much more effective. Adding age and culturally appropriate activities to the community center is one means of reinforcing positive behaviors. Providing vocational opportunities in the schools is another. Making sure all kids have a caring, responsible adult to talk to is yet another. That's not blaming--it's creating opportunities for kids to succeed.

Fair enough, Terri. But the readers of should know that there is a lot of passion and commitment to reaching the kids in Northside - and the man that drives that commitment is Hargraves Center Director Nate Davis. Generations of Northside kids look up to Nate (and rightly so).

And, just so you know, Hargraves was NOT "built with the intention that it would provide alternatives to hanging out on the street." Hargraves center was not even built by the Town. The Town was not willing to spend money on creating a park in a black neighborhood (staight-up racist), so Northside residents got together and acquired land and built the Hargraves Center so that the black community would have a common meeting space and a park.

Thanks for the clarification Mark. I'm sorry if my comment came off as critical--that certainly wasn't my intention. We as a society do a pretty good job of providing programming that engages little kids, but when those kids get to middle school, something changes in their interest, their involvement....something intangible. For example, kids that participate in Head Start do great through elementary school, but we can't say that those benefits consistently extend through middle school. Researchers are really struggling to figure out why. I was generalizing on this effect in my comments about Hargraves.

I understand. Thanks, Terri.

They charged two teenageers with "maintaining a residence for the purpose of keeping or selling a controlled substance," and also one had a FAKE rock of crack. (Ha ha, poseur.) Everyone else was let go and told not to come back or they'd be charged with tresspassing.

Maybe this will scare some folks, but this isn't exactly the big impact I would expect to see from such an expensive and aggressive police action. If they can keep that house from acting as a hub of crack trade that would probably help, but I'm skeptical this will have much visible impact on the dealing we see in front of my house on a regular basis.

Ruby--I read the article this morning--if they didn't FIND any drugs--they can't charge people with much more than they did. Bummer-but that's the way the laws work. "Trespassing" people from the property might have more effect--but only if the people who own the house enforce the "Do Not Trespass" order and actually CALL the police when someone is on the property illegaly. Sounds to ME (after reading the article)as though you have an owner problem. Those are REALLY tough to solve.

The police can only do so much. Does CH have a process for condemning properties that have become a persitant nuisance? I know many communities DO. BUT--then you run into a PR problem--who wants to condemn the house of some frail little old lady? I know a lot of people who were up in arms when the elderly owner of this house was charged with "maintaining a residence for the purpose of keeping or selling a controlled substance" awhile back.


Right now...out of my window in the Northside neighborhood I am watching two grown MEN, not teenagers, solicit sales of something with people in a stopped car. After a short conversation one man gets in the back of the car and they drive away. It's 9:30 AM July 30 less than two days latter from the above mentioned Big Bust.

This is not the first time I have witnessed this. Many, many, many times I have seen the actual product change hands during the day right before my eyes. There is no fear in the sellers and buyers. Addiction to money and chemicals can make a powerfully alley against even the most aggressive tactics.

BTW...Video cameras are a nice idea if you don't mind being robbed and shot.

I think the rain stopped drug sales more than the cops did yesterday. I'd really like to read what the police have to say about this problem. Right here on this blog. What are ya'll doing? What are your plans? Hey Chief Greg Jarvies....are you reading?

Oh yeah...would ya'll stop trying to hijack this thread to discuss local schools and mergers? Go talk about that stuff on another thread.

And being the selfish homeowner, I can't help but think that shutting down this house is just going to cause another crack house to surface on another street... like... mine? At least I'm a block and a half away from the current concussion grenade impacts at this point.

And are we seeing similar operations in Carrboro in the Abbey Court area? What are the most recent police interventions there and in Estes Park? Those seem to be the other two hubs of activity in our little town. Anyone from Carrboro feel like commenting on the strategy there? And if we do succeed in shutting down all drug operations in Northside/Lloyd Street, who is to say that everything won't then just go to the less organized, less defensible apartment complexes? Any idea about what is happening in terms of a broader regionwide approach to getting folks out of drug dealing and into other careers?

OK, and just to throw it out there for the sake of discussion (please, no personal attacks since I'm not sure I believe what I'm about to say).... isn't the problem more with the underground nature and surreptitious dealings associated with the drug dealing and prostitution that occurs? Since we're never going to "win" a drug war that thrives on a demand that isn't going to go away, wouldnt' it make more sense to regulate the industries instead and give the dealers some way to legimitately run a business? Kind of like we did with alcohol? Tax the hell out of the drugs and put all the proceeds into free drug rehab for anyone who wants it? I know this isn't possible in the current political climate, but just for the sake of discussion...

I've had conversations with both CH and Carrboro police over the past 2 weeks about how they dispose of drugs after they make a bust. According to both departments, they don't have many drugs to dispose of. From those conversations and what I (don't) read in the newspaper, it appears that there is very little drug activity in this community. And yet this is the 2nd or 3rd thread on drug activity since January here on OP. Any guesses as to why the experiences of residents and action of the police are so disparate?

I never got shot at in midtown Manhattan five blocks from Madison Square Gardens. I did however shoot hours of video of transactions. Drug customers will run like hell at the site of a video camera. The dealers too.

If you bond together and take these thugs on, you can win.

The other thing to do is call the police every single time you see something happening that appears illegal. They must come. You could wait for them before bringing out the cameras.

Too bad the Gaurdian Angels have no local presense. They don't put up with any of this.

If someone takes photos of the buyers, their cars, and license plates, I will provide a free website to post the pictures. We can link to the special site from HippyHillNews, and this site if Ruby wants to.

I really would like to see some fight on this issue. Don't rollover on this!

Because someone tips off the dealers BEFORE the bust and they dispose of the stuff?


We could just move the now unused red light cameras to in front of the house. :-)

Seriously, I'd like to hear what the police think they need to have a real impact on this problem. Is it more community involvement, either through calls, tips or activism? Do they need more resources?

It seems unfair to make fun of the results of this action (nothing found this time) while at the same time lamenting the fact that these houses don't get adequate police attention.

Terri makes an interesting point about whether this is much ado about nothing: "it appears that there is very little drug activity in this community." An interesting thread might be "Do we have a crime problem in CH-Carrboro?"

I scan the blotter in the CH News each issue, and am left feeling like we do. And, of course, that doesn't include all the unsolved crimes. A couple of years ago my car was stolen right from my driveway. I commented to the officers that I was surprised this happened in our little town and they almost burst out laughing. Evidently, car theft is one business which hasn't seen a downturn around here. Of course, no one wants to talk about it, so it doesn't get much publicity.

Is there more going on than we like to admit. And is it a "problem"?

Rickie, I personally cannot understand the rationale that makes alcohol legal and marijuana illegal. I know people who have used both and abused neither. (and I know some abusers of both too).

I just think the resources of our police departments could be much better used to fight crimes that people perpetrate against other people. If we want to protect people from hurting themselves, we would be much more effective with a larger group of people to outlaw cigarettes, alcohol, and McDonald's.

I don't use illegal drugs, because they're illegal and I have no desire at this point in my life to risk a criminal record over something so unnecessary. However, I don't think that a person who smokes an occasional joint is harming anyone or a criminal. The other drugs, I don't know enough about to have an opinion.

While it's been a while, when I last asked Chief Hutchinson about what progress was being made in Abbey Court and environs--(I lived there in the early '90's--Wonder how many of the trust-funders lurking here can say that) the department was actively working to establish communication and cooperation with the neighborhood/homeowners' association to deal with these issues.

We use what are called 'community resource officers' who have specific training and a specific charge to establish relationships with neighborhood residents and leaders to address crime. This program was begun in the '90's under the Clinton administration's Community Policing initiative, which provided grants to hire and train officers to work with neighborhoods plagued with drug-driven violence.

Regrettably, the national program was decimated by the current Cretin-in-Chief and his congress, but our department has continued the initiative independently. Success in these endeavors waxes and wanes, but I respectfully submit that aggrssive tactics are not necessarily ineffective or inappropriate, to wit:

A few years ago, after extensive coordination with neighbors in the Lloyd-Broad street neighborhood, Our department, in cooperation with CH, staged a rather spectacular raid, involving a phalanx of officers fanning out from a Ryder truck with air support by officers in a National Guard helicopter. Dealers and other bad actors scurried hither and yon. Result: While the take of confiscated 'product' was fairly small, several arrests were made.

Shortly thereafter, the neighbors came to Town Hall en masse. If their reaction were to mirror some of the discussion here, one might expect a strong protest of 'gestapo tactics' and what might be considered by some a paramilitary invasion of the neighborhood. Rather, the folks came to the mike to express effusive thanks to the Board for the Town's decisive action. (How often do ya see THAT?) Was it effective? Yes: Criminal activity immediately abated, and while there have been flare-ups, the level of intimidation and fear in the neighborhood has remained at a far lower level ever since. Just ask Terry and Linda Carver, and Mrs Foggie.

In Sum, No one can reasonably argue that addressing the underlying social issues giving rise to these problems is not essential. Nor, however can aggressive police action, if coordinated with neighborhood leadership be discounted as an effective tool. Regardless of the 'take', the show of force, in solidarity with the neighborhood can send a message to bad actors that there are consequences attached to such activity, making the 'business' environment is commensurately less attractive.

PS. an anecdote--Hard as I've tried otherwise, I have only managed to be successfully mugged on Franklin St. in CH.



Anita, I hear your point, but remember that there a lot of impressionable young kids in Northside and they see what goes on. They don't need to be exposed to this type of activity.

Drug dealing can seem like a rewarding (even romantic) career path if you live in a society that affords you few other opportunities. Which sounds more promising: Fry cook at McDonald's or bad-ass drug dealer rolling around town in a fancy car and carrying guns? I think we can all see how unrealistic that image of drug dealing is, but what's even more unrealistic is to think that you will go from being a fry cook to owning your own McDonald's franchise. Both things happen, but neither thing happens very much.

We need to help young folks from low-income communities see that the people who have it made in this world are not drug dealers and prostitutes, but electricians, plumbers, lawyers, barbers, beauticians, teachers, doctors etc. etc. etc.

Hell, I bet even Todd and I can find some common ground on that . . .

Do any of the local community services work with the neighborhoods such as Northside or Abbey Court to set up community empowerment programs? One of the most successful community programs in Tallahassee FL helped the residents of a very large low income housing community set up their own governance structure. Those individuals worked directly with the police and effectively reduced their crime problems within a couple of years. It was a very participatory planning process rather than top down enforcement.

(off topic--Dammit, can't seem to get a post up w/o a typo--Please disregard the last 'is' in the last sentence of the previous post--No Clinton humour, please).

Now, back to the matter at hand:


What you've described is a hallmark component of the late lamented Community Oriented Policing (COPS) program that I described above. Do you know if the Tallahassee program was done under that aegis, or another agency or entity?



I wasn't clear in my previous post. As long as drug use and drug dealing are illegal, then I support fully the efforts by our law enforcement and other community groups to get it out of our neighborhoods. I was just thinking about Rickie's comments and I agree that what makes most of the problem is not the drugs themselves but the fact they are illegal. If we legalized and regulated at least some drugs the way we currently handle alcohol a lot of this dangerous activity would virtually disappear overnight.

Until that happens though, the criminal activity that surrounds drug dealing and using cannot be allowed in our neighborhoods. Innocent people get caught in the crossfire, either figuratively or literally.

I just think at a policy level our current drug laws don't make any sense.

The Tallahassee program is more extensive than just policing. That program, which was initiated by one of my professors, created a sort of mini-town council within the housing development. They initially got a grant (written with the professor) to provide for job training, child care, etc. The residents managed the funding, ran their own meetings, and tackled all the issues that come up when people live in such close proximity to one another. I've been through Peter's publications and can't find anything describing the program. If you're interested, I'll write to him and see what he has to share.

hmm...apologize if this is duplicate, my computer crashed before the post was complete I think

I was not clear in my previous comments. As long as current laws make these types of drugs illegal then I support 100% our law enforcement's efforts ( as well as our community organizations) to rid our communities of dealers and users. And I agree that I do not want ANYONE"s children exposed to the illegal drug culture. It's just that current drug laws don't make much sense to me. If we legalized and regulated many of these currently illegal drugs, then much of the criminal activity associated with them would disappear overnight. Given the numerous other things that were are legally permitted to do to harm ourselves, I don't know why the government has such a soap box about drugs. Just my opinion..


Cool! Sounds like a fascinating model--Bet we'd all like to hear more about it!

And, Mark,

Sadly, I'd have to dispute your characterization of the 'romantic' elements of the drug dealers' lifestyle as being that unrealistic--Ask any cop and they'll tell you that one of the surest signs of a neighborhood getting 'hot', is a steady stream of new Lexii, S-class Benzes, Jags, Escalades, etc. festooned with 22-inch 'dubs' into a modest neighborhood. That's what makes the syndrome such a tough nut to crack--As you pointed out, the contrast of that lifestyle with what is available to those with limited opportunities is so stark as to make the risk of getting your ass blown off by a Mac-10 seem an acceptable potential cost of doing business--I'll have to admit a raised eyebrow from time to time as I rattle down the street in my 30-year-old heap slapping the dash to get the radio to work, and the heat to stop in the dead of August--'Hmm.

Maybe I'm in the wrong racket after all...'



Anita has it right--but legalisation is NOT going to happen. Prohibition didn't work with alchohol, isn't working with drugs. But we keep trying! Legalize the stuff and tax the HELL out of it. Yes, young people who are underage will get hold of it. But-- DUH--they do now! (And anyone with a teen who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves. YOUR kid may not be smoking or drinking--but it's out there and rteadily available. And weed is as easy to get, some kids say easier, than beer.)

Alex-- I remeber that police action in Carrboro/Chapel Hill--didn't the Independant give the towns a hard time?


Yeah, Melanie, I seem to recall that they did--But with all due respect to my friends at the Indy, when presented with a room full of grateful neighbors who had been hungry for relief, in this instance, I didn't really give a rat's a** what the Indy thought.



Hey, Alex, I wouldn't give a rat's behind EITHER...and my guess is that the police don't really worry about it either.

Nor should they.


One initiative that could help with this complex, multi-facted problem is if the Chamber of Commerce were to mount a Living Wage Campaign to help push local wages up in the direction of a wage that might actually allow someone to afford a house, or just make ends meet with a small family.

Are there enough jobs available in Chapel Hill/Carrboro, outside of the university/hospitals, for a living wage to have any impact? Is there enough less-than-$200,000 housing available for a living wage to be less than $50,000 a year?

There is a solution that is simple and cheap that I have been begging for for years: foot patrols. Chapel Hill Police Chief Jarvies claims there is some limited patrolling happening on foot, but I have never seen them (and I work at home facing a window on the street). It seems like I haven't even seen a bike cop in years. I have seen Carrboro cops walk down my street, and I came outside and thanked them for it.

The only time I see Chapel Hill police outside their cars on my street is when they are in pursuit or arresting someone. If I can walk (unarmed, out-of-shape, short, female) down my street at all hours, why can't a couple of police officers? This is the best way to know who lives here and who is just cruising for business, plus it would encourage residents to walk around or at least sit on their porches more often.


Do you pay all your workers a "living wage"?

Do you pay them enought to afford the houses you build?


Yes. Except for teenagers.

Want a good job?

Answers to questions on Terri... But, this would be a very good piece of updated information item for Orange County Economic Council to compile. Mark Chilton might have some information on this. But, a globally defined document is something that all employers and potential employees could use. When I was on the school board, we did similar studies for staff and faculty.

Terri's questions:

"Are there enough jobs available in Chapel Hill/Carrboro, outside of the university/hospitals, for a living wage to have any impact? "

My thoughts of an answer: Is UNC and hospital providing a living wage? That might be item to research by itself. While I was on the board, we attempted to very clear that the lowest paid employee recieved a living wage. I believe that OC performed a survery and was attempting to do the same thing. I do not know what their final outcome was.

The question next is what types of jobs are actually in Chapel Hill/Carrboro that are designed for a living wage and provide personal growth. This would require a review of diversity in businesses in this area (apart from RTP).

Now, the next question is what is a living wage in Chapel Hill/Carrboro. That should be defined by number of affordable units (minus student housing needs). Also, the price of health insurance and affordable services such as daycare. All quite complex questions that would require information gathering by groups. If anyone knows of such a study, please post it. I would speculate that we do not have enough jobs with a living wage and that a living wage in here is quite different from Durham (for example)

"Is there enough less-than-$200,000 housing available for a living wage to be less than $50,000 a year? "

Thoughts to Answers: From the brief reports that I have seen from affordable housing advocates, I would say "NO". I think that the idea that less than $200,000 is affordable housing (given folks on fixed income) is an inaccurate assumption.

Again, we might perform a study between housing costs in Durham versus Chapel Hill. If anyone knows of such studies, please post. We have many teachers in the town that do not live in the town, because they can't afford it, can't find it,and feel like it is a lost cause.

Habitat is one answer. Land Trust (although some what limiting to participants) is another answer. Pulling together signficant planning resources and committment to afford housing units with an array of agencies. Maybe Mark can give us some additional information on the project that he is working on.

It is hard for me to consider discussions about socialist concepts like "affordable housing" and "living wages" having ANYTHING to do with crack houses and police intervention. I guess it is a way for you folks to blame yourselves for yet another problem.


Yes, we have strayed off topic, and I agree that personal responsibility has been lost here. Nevertheless . . .

Regarding affordable housing, as long as we restrict supply and provide an environment which increases demand, we will have housing price increases which far outstrip inflation. The less than desirable solution (to some) is to increase development dramatically. Even wrangling some "affordable" homes from developers only assuage our collective conscience. The affect of those units is mitigated by the increase in price of the remaining new housing stock to counter the opportunity loss of the affordable units. Government could subsidize housing, but cajoling the private community to tackle this public issue will not succeed.

As for raising wages, again, government can decide to raise wages (as Orange County has) but in the competitive private sector, wages need to find their own level. Businesses raising wages higher than the competition will suffer losses which will hurt their expansion and reduce opportunities for future employees. Our goal should be to keep our businesses as competitive and profitable as possible, so they can create new and better jobs. Besides, why shouldn't there be jobs below however you define a "living wage"? Why shouldn't there be entry level jobs, other training positions, or part time positions which pay what the job is worth? Why shouldn't all businesses be able to do, as Mark M does: offer lower pay to less experienced workers? We're not talking about condemning those workers to lifelong poverty in those jobs. Those jobs allow them to learn and grow and prove themselves for the better paying jobs down the road, just as going back to (or staying in) school is worth more to an employer than an undereducated worker is. Both are investments a worker makes in his or her future.

I'd much rather have healthier businesses in our community than artificially raising the entry level job wage and stifling the ability of the employer to offer more jobs down the road.

I also believe no matter how many jobs are available, even decently paying ones, there are going to be folks who will feed on the weaknesses of others, and occupy elderly lady's homes, and wreak havoc in our neighborhoods. They will only respond to what they know: intimidation. And the police, with the backing of the community, shouldn't hesitate to make their costs greater than their potential gains. A constant presence may be required (and foot patrols could probably help there) but eventually, the bad guys will move to where they can do their work unimpeded. That's one type of NIMBYism which we should all encourage.

Here's a thought...Enacting laws to keep the "bad guys" in jail rather than non-violent criminals would be a good start. If we could quit occupying jail time with non-violent criminals maybe we could accomplish something. Seems to me the best way to hurt non violent (aka white collar) criminals is to just take their money away (aka fines) and not jail time. Save the hard time for murderers, rapists, child sex offenders, and probably drug dealers (probably not users).

I work in the staffing industry and talk with lots of public and private hiring entities, as well as people who relocate to the area and look for work. Anecdotally, I see the following:

Jobs available in chapel hill/carrboro proper (other than professional positions like faculty, lawyers, physicians) tend to pay somewhat less than similar jobs in the greater Triangle. I think this is because the University is such a major employer in the area, and state pay grades are setting the pay points for the private sector.

There seems to be a strong market for support positions in the local area in both public and private sectors, but not enough candidates living locally to fill them. Many of my business clients have emphasized that they want candidates who live in town, because commuting through the I-40 corridor has become so unpredictable that they cannot rely on out of the area workers making it to work on time. However, they cannot always find local workers, especially for the support positions they have.

Candidates who walk in my office have a strong preference to work locally, but many of them wind up driving to RTP. In the salary surveys we do in our office, we generally find that salaries follow I-40---the farther from Chapel Hill you are willing to drive, the more money you will make for the same job. Most of the people who relocate here without a job waiting tell me that it is MUCH harder than they expected to find the job they want locally (ie without that I-40 commute). They are pretty surprised at how out of balance salaries and housing are in the local community.

I don't represent this as scientifically valid, but it does line up with what most of us are thinking.

The point of the discussion on salaries and affordable housing was SUPPOSE to illustrate the point that people who are denied access to certain privileges(?) (e.g. some Northside, Abbey Court residents) such as well paying jobs and nice houses make a choice to spit in the eye of the system rather than to passively accept their lack of opportunity. You can try to eliminate crime through enforcement and punishment but generally that only means the perpetrators move to another location rather than cease and desist on their unacceptable behavior.


Are many of these folks you are meeting choosing to deal crack in the North end instead of the commute?


Your theory would make sense if most residents so deprived turned to crime for a fast buck, but, alas, most folks - the vast majority - choose not to "spit in the eye of the system".

No, there are just bad people in the world (from all socioeconomic strata, BTW, we certainly can't blame Enron, et al, on being "denied access to ... privileges ... such as well paying jobs and nice houses" can we?).

And yes, if you don't lock them up, or make the costs too high for them, they will find another location. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't help neighborhoods rid themselves of these bad seeds.

Just to be clear here.

I do not think that there is ANY excuse for dealing crack or drugs. Poor choice and a choice that is punishable as the law defines. This is a choice that destroys a household and a neighborhood. It is imperative that consequences are defined for one's actions that negatively affects those around you.

I am responding to Terri's question about wages and housing. I am also responding to the fact that there are many elderly (as defined in the original post) and young child who have no choices but to live a house dealing with drugs. They have no choice. I hope that our community recognizes that fact and works to offer alternatives.

We must provide adequate and affordable housing for people who wish to succeed and who wish to break destructive cycles. We must provide "livable wage" employment to allow our younger generation to see role models who display the ability to succeed and progress.

Finally, I belive that if you take an action, you are responsible for the consequence of that action.

Just a clarification.


I'm sorry, but I don't buy the "they have no choice" excuse. Of course they have a choice. Call the cops. How many homes in Northside are owned by elderly in the same economic state as the woman who owned this house? Plenty. Do they all open their doors to crack dealers. No. They made the right choice.

How is a living wage going to help that woman? She's retired. How is affordable housing going to help her? She has a home.

She may need help, but she didn't have to turn to a gang of thugs to get it. In fact, it seems her family has stepped in to help. Where were they before, if she was so needy?

I'm not saying living in this town on fixed income is easy. But if that's a problem, then let's lower our taxes. We're forcing long time residents right out of town. They don't have a choice. Such a shame.

But that woman certainly had a choice. She chose to abet these people to the detriment of her neighbors and community. She deserves charity for her condition but condemnation for her decision.



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