Troubleshooters: Investigating complaints of alleged drug house near preschool

A recent complaint from that area caught WAVE News Anchor and Troubleshooter John Boel's eye because it was right next to the Portland Promise Center.
Published: Oct. 26, 2023 at 5:58 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 26, 2023 at 6:21 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Most of the complaints to the WAVE Troubleshooters about drug dealing houses terrorizing neighborhoods have been in Portland.

If you look at the drug busts so far this year around Louisville, the proliferation appears to be centered around Portland and West Louisville. A recent complaint from that area caught my eye because it was right next to the Portland Promise Center, and its preschool, with little kids running around.

From my undercover position next to the preschool near 19th and Baird, I immediately noticed cars stopping in the street. A guy promptly walked out of his house with something cupped in his hand, he looked around, reached into an open window, made some kind of exchange, stuffed something in his pocket, and they parted ways.

Waiting cars sometimes stacked up out in the street. I saw the same guy at times out there directing all the traffic while continuing the process of walking up to the arriving cars and making exchanges through the windows. They seldom waited long. The drive-thru service was quicker than you get a fast food places.

It wasn’t always the same guy, but it was the same routine: a car pulled up, someone immediately walked out clutching something in hand, an exchange through the window, pocketing what appeared to be cash, then a big thumbs up. There was often that last-second look around during these roadway exchanges to make sure no one was watching. But I was watching like a hawk.

After a few days when I noticed all activity changed from a drive-through to walk-ins, a neighbor told me one of them paid someone to remove a camera from a telephone pole because they were paranoid they were being watched.

The volume of activity was now up to several people per hour on foot or by car, walking into the same home, spending a minute or two inside, and coming back out. Sometimes they got dropped off and then picked back up when they emerged. It didn’t subside even when city code enforcement workers were right across the street. All the while, preschool kids were playing outside the Portland Center.

What was for sale? Neighbors said it was heroin, fentanyl, and oxy.

”My name is John Boel,” I said while walking up to one of the people I’d been watching. “I’m with WAVE News. We’re in the neighborhood here following up on a complaint of drug dealing going on in this block here. You know anything about that?”

“No I don’t,” he said.

”I’ve got video, lot of video, of you coming out to cars with your hand cupped, making an exchange in the window and taking away cash,” I said. “Can you tell me what’s going on there?”

”I loan people money all the time,” he said.

“You loan people money?” I asked.

“Yeah,” he said.

“So people pulling up, and you come up with a cupped hand, you’re loaning them money?” I asked again.

“If they’re paying me back yeah. Why?” he said.

“Because it kind of looks like drug dealing,” I said.

“Ok I’m sorry,” he said. “You can search me right now.”

I declined the offer to search him, but I kept asking about all the loans going on in the street and all the walk-in visitors.

”I mean, I give people money all the time,” he said. “I mean, I try to help whoever I can.”

“And it’s not drug dealing?” I asked.

“No not at all,” he said.

I shared what I was told and what I observed with LMPD last week. I also contacted the Portland Center preschool to tell them what was going on. A director told me, “It’s not surprising given the state of the community.” However, they’re confident in their security system.