EAST ST. LOUIS — It is known as "Vulture Alley," one of the most violent spots in East St. Louis.
Dope dealers stand on the corners peddling their illegal drugs to residents and outsiders.
Prostitutes clamor on the corners looking for johns, who faithfully show up offering to pay for sexual favors.
People are routinely robbed at gunpoint as they go to and from a neighborhood store or while walking in the area.
One bully tries to be a bigger bully than another guy, with one vying to be the commander of the area. Consequently, gun play between one dealer and another comes into play and bullets fly all over, sometimes striking innocent people.
The area is between Ninth and 15th streets on Lynch Avenue. Residents and cops alike call it Vulture Alley because of the immense amount of violence that occurred there as criminals prey upon innocent residents and those up to no good.
After receiving complaints from residents and their families and numerous requests for an outside police agency to help clean up an area, Joe Beliveau, narcotics commander of the Metropolitan Enforcement Group of Southern Illinois, and his team spent six months working in the area, usually undercover.
Many of the agents hope their efforts to clean up the area will be fruitful so children could play as they should be able to do so, and so people who live in the area would be safe as they go to and from work, run their daily errands, do their daily chores and sit in their homes.
Today, there is a noticeable difference from six months ago. The corners, once heavily populated with people doing illegal things, were more empty Wednesday as agents rode through checking to be sure that the message is out there -- that there will be no illegal business tolerated in Vulture Alley.
The special detail went back and forth between Ninth and 15th Streets on Lynch Avenue for the six months they were embedded there. Agents worked day into night on several occasions.
"We targeted people selling drugs, people paying for illegal sex acts, prostitutes, dope dealers on corners, and drug users coming to buy crack cocaine," Beliveau said.
Undercover agents were used in various capacities to capture the johns who were crawling all over the area, the drug dealers who boldly peddled their illegal wares on corners, or by hopping in and out of cars, and flagging potential buyers over to them, and they rounded up those who came to buy the illegal goods.
Residents have been an integral part of helping police try to clean up the area.
"They want to be as safe as they can be and they were willing to work with us to make it happen," Beliveau said.
Up close and personal
A News-Democrat reporter rode along on a detail Wednesday and got to see first-hand the illegal, open-air drug sales, the prostitution and the many johns who pulled up to women on the corners.
The prostitutes, who walked along the route, drinking liquor from bottles and appearing to be high, were mostly young. When police asked them what they were doing, many of them said they were looking for a friend, headed to the store, or going home.
They were told by police they could not hanging around on the corners. Because it was so common, cars continually pulled up looking for the ladies and drugs.
The activity was almost constant:
* At 1:34 p.m., a man driving a Mercury Marquis drove up to Ninth and Lynch streets to solicit a prostitute.
* At 1:40 p.m. police were on radios reporting that someone had just purchased a look-alike substance at Ninth Street and East Lake Avenue.
* At 1:45 p.m., an Infinity drove up to Ninth and Lynch where two women were on the corner and he tried to solicit them for sexual acts. He was greeted by flashing red and blue lights as police hopped out of their cars, handcuffed him and quickly drove his car off to another area, where he was arrested and charged with soliciting a prostitute. He tried to talk his way out of it.
Each time, the scene was quickly cleared and another john would drive up and attempt the same thing and the same thing would happen. Several individuals, including Richard Kick, the owner of a Sullivan, Mo., trucking company, was arrested and charged with solicitation of a prostitute. Kick's tan Ford F 250 was seized by police.
Another man, Darren Thomas, of East St. Louis, graphically described to two women what he was looking for and offered to pay them. Instead, police who were watching the area quickly nabbed him. They had watched him drive by two times before he finally stopped on this third drive by. When police got him out of his Toyota Avalon, he shook his head in disgust. Police charged him with soliciting a prostitute and seized his vehicle.
Other arrests on this day included:
* Greg Jerashon, 32, of Caseyville, charged with soliciting prostitution and possession of drug paraphernalia.
* Kaudine Shahid, 41, of East St. Louis, charged with solicitation of a sex act.
* Lonnie Pearson, 50, of St. Louis, Mo., who was charged with possession of a look-alike substance. He also had an outstanding warrant from St. Louis.
* Rigoberto Joaquin-Jacinto, 28, of East St. Louis, charged with solicitation of a sex act.
* Christopher Wilson, 36, of Manchester, Mo., charged with possession of a look-alike substance.
* Padro Avalos, 34, of Fairmont City, charged with solicitation of a sex act.
* Michael Dobrynski, 28, of Granite City, charged with solicitation of a sex act.
* Jaime Posado, 28, of Collinsville, charged with solicitation of a sex act.
* Edward Kuhl, 73, of Aviston, charged with soliciting a prostitute.
While the MEGSI agents rounded up the solicitors, they also went in search of some of the city's most-violent offenders. They located a number of them.
"We had arrest warrants for many individuals for drug violations, guns, obstructing justice, aggravated fleeing and eluding, unlawful use of a weapon, prostitution and soliciting a sex act," Beliveau said.
Some were arrested at their homes. Others, just like clockwork, sauntered into Vulture Alley and on their way, were arrested.
Among those arrested and charged were Dorian Fields, of Fairview Heights, whose vehicle was confiscated; Antoine D. Arnold, of East St. Louis; Earle C. McGee of St. Louis; Willie J. Butler, of East St. Louis, from whom police also seized crack cocaine and cash; Dominique K. Lewis, 19, of East St. Louis; Majique Johnson, 26, of East St. Louis, and Norris Mays Jr. of East St. Louis.
A number of other people were wanted on outstanding warrants and are still being sought.
Beliveau said police seized approximately 12 ounces of crack cocaine, 4 ounces of powder cocaine, two firearms and three vehicles during the sweep.
Some residents approached the agents and thanked them for their efforts and asked them to continue their work.
Police Chief Michael Floore also said the area is a known drug and prostitution area and thanked the MEGSI officers for their assistance.
"We have made numerous arrests over there ourselves in reference to prostitution, drugs and guns. You name it, we've made arrests," he said.
"We're happy to have the additional help in the area. It takes as much law enforcement as we can get to clean this area up and keep it safe for our citizens and the entire city."
Contact reporter Carolyn P. Smith at 618-239-2503.