Sat, Jul 31, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Sydney police flood Aboriginal slum in heroin sting

AP , SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

Police stand in front of a wall painted with the Aboriginal flag during a drug raid in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern in Australia yesterday. Up to 200 police raided derelict homes in a notorious Aboriginal slum known as the Block, arresting alleged heroin dealers and addicts who haunt the crime-ridden neighborhood.

PHOTO: AP

Hundreds of police raided derelict homes in a notorious Aboriginal slum in Sydney yesterday, arresting 25 alleged heroin dealers and addicts in the opening salvo of a campaign aimed at cleaning up the crime-ridden neighborhood.

The crackdown on heroin would continue until the end of the year in the troubled Aboriginal neighborhood known as "the Block," local police chief Dennis Smith said.

"I am confident there will be less heroin available by Christmas than there has ever been on the Block," he said.

Smith described those arrested as "midlevel heroin drug-dealing pushers" and said most were residents of the Block, part of the Sydney suburb of Redfern. Fifteen people were arrested for selling heroin and another 10 for lesser drug offenses, such as possession, he said.

Police had been planning the raids since Aboriginal elders from The Block asked earlier this year for help ridding the syringe-littered streets of heroin dealers and users.

"The majority of the Aboriginal community in Redfern want the police to do more in relation to drugs," Smith said.

The grid of rundown houses just a few kilometers from Sydney Harbor Bridge has been under intense scrutiny since earlier this year when a young boy, who local Aborigines say was being chased by police, died after he fell off his bicycle and became impaled on a fence post. The incident triggered Sydney's worst-ever race riot.

Police deny the claim and say they did all they could to save the boy's life.

Local Aboriginal community leader Wally Carr condemned yesterday's raid as a cosmetic exercise that would not fix the deep-rooted problem of drug abuse in the neighborhood.

He accused the police of targeting only heroin users and not drug dealers.

"They're just pinching the junkies," he said. "It's no good pinching the junkies, they are sick people. They have to get the people who are selling the gear."

Carr, a former champion boxer who said he was trying to set up a drug rehabilitation center for Aborigines in the Block, blamed dealers from outside the community for selling drugs in the area.

"You don't see black fellas getting off the plane from Thailand," he said. Thailand is believed to be a major conduit for heroin smuggled into Australia.

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