LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Spend some time outside 103 St. Catherine St., right across from Englehard Elementary School, and it’s not hard to figure out what’s going on.
A steady stream of people day and night, as many as 20 per hour, walked in, spent a couple minutes inside, and then left. Sometimes they scattered fast. Sometimes there was a line to get in. Money was often out when they went in. Wads of money, with $100 bills showing.
They emerged with hands in their pockets, or they pulled out and checked what they just got in a small wrapped package, or placed it in their mouths, a common tactic in case they’re confronted by police. I recorded transactions right outside the house, too. A panhandler on the corner walked over and forked over some cash to a guy on the steps who handed him back something from the palm of his hand.
What were they buying? It’s hard to say, but one guy unwrapped and popped the orange cap on a syringe. Then one of the guys from 103 St. Catherine St. gave him what appeared to be small, wrapped, light-colored packet with another one visible in his other hand. He spent some time preparing the syringe and then disappeared between homes with it. When they left we videotaped the syringes piling up in the yard.
”There’s needles in the alley, the property, everywhere,” one neighbor said, who asked to remain anonymous because she’s afraid of retaliation. “I think business is booming because you see needles everywhere, cars double parked, you see all these people in front, they run across the street under my neighbor’s stairwell, shooting dope.”
The woman said she has complained to every authority she can think of while counting 11 drug overdoses in front of 103 St. Catherine St. since July. The first day I started watching, a person walked into the residence, came out 10 minutes later, and went to the ground, occasionally twitching or flopping around. The stream of people entering and leaving the address continued, sometimes pausing to look. Several minutes later, the apparent overdose was lying out in the roadway backing up traffic during evening rush hour. After 15 minutes of it, Louisville police arrived, but nothing happened. When the person was eventually able to get back inside the residence, the officers left. A few minutes later, there was another line of people waiting to get in.
”Hey, could I talk to you a second; I’m John Boel from WAVE 3 News,” I said in an attempt to interview one of the people coming and going from the building. “We’re getting a lot of complaints on this house. Do you know what’s going on in here? What are all the people coming and going from here doing? Is this a drug house?”
“No,” he said while closing the door on me.
“It’s just frustrating because I can sit there and watch someone pull up and someone walk up and do the handoff of drugs and money over and over and over and I may be only there for a small amount of time,” a longtime Old Louisville man said. He has owned properties in the area and also asked to remain anonymous, fearing retaliation. He said he has complained multiple times to New Directions Housing Corporation, the non-profit that owns 103 St. Catherine Street and other buildings next to his properties.
”Usually, it’s met with resistance,” he said. “They are very hesitant to talk with anyone.”
New Directions talked to WAVE 3 News. A representative said they group is just as disturbed about it as neighbors are. They said the trafficking is so obvious there that dealers have even tried to sell drugs to New Directions workers who’ve visited the residence.
”We did go to court and we got an eviction order,” New Directions attorney Greg Joyner said, adding that New Directions got an eviction order back in November, but it was appealed.
Joyner said the pandemic has made it easier to prolong evictions.
”Instead of having it heard right away,” Joyner said, “it’s set for some time down the road, and COVID obviously hurt everyone’s ability to be heard in court. Eviction court is one of the worst.”
A New Directions officer wondered why police haven’t taken action on something so obvious. I saw police at the residence a couple of times.
”In the past six months we have received 17 calls for service to this address,” LMPD Assistant Chief of Police Lt. Col. Andy McClinton said. He said the department is handcuffed by the departures of 200 officers over the past two years, 15 percent of the force, leaving them thin on investigating these kinds of cases.
”We used to have impact platoons in all of the divisions,” he said. “But, unfortunately, those officers assigned to impact platoons who typically deal with a complaint had to go back to riding the street because we have to be able to answer all of our calls for service.”
McClinton said even if they make a bust, the court system will turn them loose in four to six hours anyway.
”I think police felt it’s contained in this little building,” the Old Louisville property owner said. “Let’s ignore it and hopefully it won’t spread and our job will be a little easier.”