Third and Indiana

Get yer crack right here, same as back in the day.

By Steve Volk
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 20 | Posted May. 24, 2006

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Corner story: Business remains brisk at the intersection Steve Lopez made famous.

A couple weeks back, as activist CB Kimmins drove to a candlelight vigil on Clearfield Avenue, he took a wrong turn.

"I drove onto Indiana," he said, "where I saw an enormous number of drug dealers."

In some circles this wouldn't qualify as news. The Badlands, which include the lower reaches of Indiana Avenue, have long been some of the city's most notorious streets-a place where an addict can pick up crack or heroin with the ease of picking up fresh vegetables in the Italian Market.

Any respite offered by Operation Safe Streets, which chased drug dealers off the corners for about a year starting in 2003, is over. The area has returned to the kind of drug dealing Steve Lopez documented 12 years ago in his novel Third and Indiana.

Kimmins says he stopped at the corner of Fourth and Indiana, and seven or eight dealers swarmed his car, thinking he was there to buy drugs. He talked his way out, he says, and called city police, who ran a sweep of the area.

But just last week business seemed on the upswing again.

PW visited the area of Third and Indiana twice in the week after Kimmins' encounter, and found a neighborhood largely left to rot.

Trash litters the sidewalks, and a makeshift garbage dump has been made of an empty lot in the 400 block of Indiana Avenue. Tall grass does nothing to obscure stacks of tires, worn stuffed chairs and piles of bottles, bags and takeout containers.

In the surrounding neighborhood few want to talk, and no one wants to give their name. One young mother says all she wants to do is "get out the ghetto." An older relative says she's always afraid.

Nearby on Third Street, a man says he works for a living but remains afraid of the police. "I got a job," he says, "but if they see me with $100 in my pocket, what will they think?"

On a recent morning a police car cruised the street every five minutes or so. Young men ringed the corners along Third, Fourth and Fifth and Indiana, tossing their heads back with seeming impatience every time the cruiser rolled past.

By 11 a.m. the cruiser was still patrolling, and the young men had left. But just a few days later, at around 5 p.m., there were no police in sight, and the drug dealers were doing hand-to-hand transactions on Fourth and Indiana.

An older man with gray in his beard appeared to make an exchange with a young man in a hoodie. A pair of blonds made transactions 10 minutes apart. The second girl strolled north on Fourth Street till she came into view again on Indiana, stashing something in her right sock before walking back the same way.

"Things are back the way they used to be," says Greg Bucceroni, an activist like Kimmins.

Shortly after Kimmins' car had been swarmed, Bucceroni traveled to the area and told the dealers their aggressive sales tactics "weren't cool."

Kimmins says the dealers stood around in silence, waiting for him to finish his lecture, then said goodbye with a chorus of "fuck you."

Bucceroni's been patrolling these streets, off and on, for roughly 30 years. "You've got guys on the corners again," he concludes, "dealing outside."

A 32-year-old man was shot and killed at Sixth and Indiana in March. And there's a lot of talk in the streets about gang activity, some of it triggered by the recent conviction of King Homicide, the head of the Latin Kings. "There's talk that the Bloods gang is trying to recruit now because the Kings might be vulnerable," says Bucceroni.

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Comments 1 - 20 of 20
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1. ORLANDO said... on Dec 2, 2008 at 05:54PM


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2. Anonymous said... on Apr 26, 2009 at 11:30AM

“What's saddest about this is that there is only one comment on this article. Wealthy people with a political voice don't care because they don't live there. Don't the suburban folks with kids strung out on heroin and cocaine know that this is where it's coming from?”

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3. Anonymous said... on Jul 22, 2009 at 07:32PM

“Hey I live there... here... haha...”

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4. nes said... on Jan 20, 2010 at 01:46PM

“I live here to and the problem is that our community has been abandon by those that can make a difference. I decide to stay here on Fairihill and Indy with my wife and kids. I believe that there's needs to be positive leadership to make a difference and a change. We have those leaders but they just move to the north east or north. So we need to raise them up and build them up to the point to lead this community.”

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5. Anonymous said... on Feb 14, 2010 at 05:30PM

“I had a friend who was addicted to heroin for years, and one day he was going to buy some heroin so he could get "well" as thats all it really was for him, like it was his medicine. 3rd and Indy was being busted by the police, so he was going to wait it out even though he was in extreme withdrawal but some random guys flagged down his car and sold him what he thought was heroin. It turned out to be rat poison. He went to the hospital because his ears were ringing and his BP was way too high and he had a headache. He never came home from the hosp. He's dead now. I've talked to people and 3rd and Indiana, although its not the strongest, has never sold rat poison. So because the police were busting the people with the real dope, the only thing available was rat poison. I dont know what the answer really is, but knowing this happened has made me see things in less black and white than i used to.”

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6. BT said... on Jun 23, 2010 at 11:11AM

“I am an addict. I have been chasing dope in the Badlands for 13 years on & off. I had a friend who suffered the exact same incident with rat poison, and I see what you mean. This week I re-entered my local Methadone Clinic and am trying to pull my life back together. Last week at this time...i was chased off Somerset by Vice while I was trying to just "get well" and it sucked. Because I went DIRECTLY into another area and copped very weak dope, which didn't keep me off the streets for even a day. All I wanted to do was get enough to make it threw to my clinic appointment, but instead I had to go back several times. The problem is never gonna stop. Somerset and Kensington looks like a freaking' ZOMBIE market EVERYDAY. The cops come, jump out, everybody dips out for about 15 minutes...then the cycle restarts. The City of Philadelphia needs to invest more time and dollars into treatment...instead of my opinion. But....its never gonna stop and they know that. Its literally hell.”

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7. mcr said... on Jul 4, 2010 at 04:58PM

“I'm an avid photographer and I wanted to photograph "the ghetto" mainly around 3rd and Indiana because I've heard so mush about it. I had my camera and drove through the area going north on 3rd street. As I approached Indiana everyone at the intersection looked at me and began yelling what they had to sell. I was not invisible and obviously could not pull out my camera and start shooting. I was so scared I just continued driving past and never took a shot. I've lived in Philly for 7 years now and have been all over the city and have never felt this frightened for my life as I was at the intersection of 3rd and Indiana.”

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8. Anonymous said... on Aug 11, 2010 at 12:36PM

“Yea, it deff. is like a flea market the way you can buy drugs down there. I myself unfortunatly have done so. I go to either 4th and indy or 3rd and indy, im not sure. Either way, i am a complete stranger to that neighborhood (living over 30 miles away) and all i have to do is pull up, say a number, and im on my way. But If you are anywhere off of allegheny towards indy, and you're white, and a cop see's you, its game over. Your fucked. So id say they're doing a somehwat good job of drug control. I've never seen a cop on indy ever. Bottom line, its a bad neighborhood and a white kid from the burbs should not be there.”

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9. Anonymous said... on Dec 8, 2010 at 10:24AM

“I am a white kid from the suburbs who (due to years of heroin addiction) ended up LIVING in North Philly. I got shook down a few times a week by black cops. White cops...I just usually them the truth and showed them my arms and my methadone ID card, because I stayed inside unless going to the store or clinic. My point is...even though I legitimately LIVED in the "badlands" and some cops knew me...I couldnt do shit. Which ended up being a good thing because after doing methadone for a while, my family let me back in their lives, and Im out of North Philly. It is the hardest place for an addict to stay clean I could ever imagine. It's like being poor is a crime to the street cops...they litterally made me leave the block I had legal residence on twice, and followed me to the other side of Arimingo. Like wtf? I still gotta walk back in to go home? Im glad to be out. It's DEFINATELY NOT always sunny in Philly”

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10. Brad Gerstner said... on Mar 26, 2011 at 08:15AM

“North Philly makes money for the city dont you understand cops work jails work feds work dea works fbi works jail guards work and on and on and on if they wanted to they could end all illegal drugs in america in one minute possesion life in jail period no treatment life in jail i can swear you would have now we have 20,000,000 americans on drugs then you would have probally 5,000 another route legal gangs done street violence done poor areas done all of it they can do something but they since 1972 have stuck to jail incarcerate illegal period and paid 2.2 trillion for nothing more then all wars of america combined and war on drugs people are so dumb means war on us the people you cannot have war on a verb the war is on the people same as terror cannot have war on a verb on a country yes unreal the lack of knowledge which is why they can do what they do no know,ledge of the people by the way i have been to north philly white boy over 700 times to buy drugs ripped off 2 times no cops”

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11. Anonymous said... on May 2, 2011 at 02:42AM

“This sheet goes on in your neighborhood. You should be the voice. Don't blame the suburbanites or those that live in different parts of the city. Only you can affect change in your neighborhood.”

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12. Anonymous said... on Oct 3, 2011 at 03:39PM

“I have met some really good people working the badlands. just trying to survive.”

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13. Anonymous said... on Apr 26, 2012 at 04:03PM

“I grew up in these streets and I know how it is my brother got killed three months ago to the streets and this were he started 3rd and Indy and he was only 14 when he died he started being in the streets since age 9 then he started being in groups these streets are not the same before people are killing people for money and drugs”

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14. Bob Saget said... on Jul 25, 2012 at 02:42PM

“Baltimore is similar to Philly. I am a recovering addict myself. For about 4 years. 2 years ago went to a Further concert at the Mann Center in North Philly and some of the dealers made their way over to make some money off the hippie crowd. Mostly "Nitrous Mafia" as they call them but some crack dealers and whatnot. Heroin is an epidemic in this country but the answer is not more incarceration. Or more forced treatment. The answer may be complete legalization...start with pot, see how that goes and go on from there. Crack and meth are horrible but i don't see that ending even if we legalized everything else. I've pondered the answer to the drug problem for many hours and it's definitely not obvious.”

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15. mare said... on Oct 7, 2012 at 08:05AM

“it is time for those living in the badlands to protect their own families by not tolerating dealers in the neighborhood. when you see dealers selling heroin and crack at third, fourth, fifth, sixth and indiana, call the cops and report them. the life you save may be your own sons, daughters or neighbors.”

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16. Anonymous said... on Mar 24, 2013 at 12:57AM

“just went down there to cop, 4th and indy guy wasnt out soon as i pulled off me and my bf got ripped out the car and searched thank god dude wasnt out or else id be in jail and sick. never going down there again”

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17. Anonymous said... on Mar 13, 2014 at 05:57PM

“I am female 28 yrs old born and raised on Indy have felt safe around here my whole life. These people out here just tryna make a living they also protect and watch over us.”

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18. Botswain said... on Mar 19, 2014 at 10:50AM

“I spent the first 16 years of my life @ 257 W. Mayfield St.(100 yards from 3rd. & indiana). To see what this working class neighborhood has become sickens me. I did not turn into a junkie or a criminal. I now live in a single home in suburban Philadelphia with a built in pool,I drive a Corvette, and have 3 children with doctorates.I say this to the residents of the Badlands: You can or you can't...the decision is yours! Get your priorities in order!”

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19. Allegheny Girl said... on Jul 9, 2014 at 04:18AM

“Brad Gerstner's comment hits the nail on the head-drugs make a lot of money for people who are not drug dealers or addicts. Till we own up to this and try to resolve this problem, nothing will change. The War on Drugs is a costly and dismal failure which targeted the wrong pople. Privitization of prisons invites corruption and injustice as the case of the judges in Luzurne Counties demonstrate. Mr. Botswain's reply takes a very naieve and simplistic view of the problem, a view that actually makes things worse. He lived in the Badlands before they were the badlands and when Phila. was filled with places to find work.But the factories closed and the fairly paid unskilled jobs left. Nothing replaced them so you have this horrifying problem in what was once a peaceful, clean and virtually crime free area. I know I grew up in this area during that happy time.”

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20. John Nicholas said... on Feb 14, 2015 at 06:51AM

“I grew up at 3055 N. Orkney Street around the corner from Third and Indiana. I was born in the Pennsylvania Hospital in 1947 and left Philadelphia in 1962 when I was 14 and my mother died. It was not that bad then, mainly white working class with a few Puerto Rican families like the Collados who lived on Indiana near Third. Although I was a bit of juvenile delinquent, there really was never any serious crime in the area. The worst thing was avoiding punks looking to beat up younger weaker kids and avoiding the absolutely brutal Philadelphia police. I usually hung out at the Mann Recreation Center ,playing ball with the blacks and PRs and we got along great. The white kids were a lot worse. What happened? It appears to be a huge immigrant influx and white flight.”


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