ATLANTIC CITY — As the 1700 block of Atlantic Avenue bustled with activity during the lunchtime rush Friday afternoon, a young man, who looked no older than 17, approached another man walking, asking under his breath if he needed any drugs.

The man waved him off and kept walking.

Business owners say interactions like that are just a part of everyday life on the block where police on Thursday arrested a dozen people on charges of possession and distribution of drugs in the past week after complaints came in to officers.

Detectives from the Special Investigations Section, led by Detective Jefferson Rivera, conducted surveillance to target the dealers, according to a news release. They recovered cocaine, marijuana and heroin during the arrests.

Edward Pullman, manager of Wood’s Loan Office, said for the past five years, kids have been hanging out in front of the store dealing drugs.

“I’m very happy,” he said of the arrests. “I wish they could get some more.”

Their dealing hurts legitimate businesses on the block by making customers scared to shop there, he said.

There’s a fast food place, a couple of bodegas, a clothing store and a cellphone shop on the block. A handful of young men sat or stood on the sidewalk Friday, calling out to passers-by, then going back to their posts as foot traffic picked up after noon.

Around lunchtime, a group of locals talked about the routine of watching young men sell and buy drugs, and the occasional bust that follows.

“Some of our customers ask to get escorted to their cars,” Pullman said, adding that shoppers from the outlets down the street will turn right around when they hit the block. “People don’t want to stand there and look in the window with these groups hanging out front.”

While he’s glad the arrests were made, he said that as soon as police leave, the dealers come back.

All of those arrested this week were released on summonses with a future court date, according to the release.

Two stores down, at Playground Video, an adult entertainment store, owner Harry Wardana has posted a sign outside warning people not to hang out in front of the store, that there’s round-the-clock surveillance, and no drug activities or loitering are allowed.

Wardana said the recent arrests helped, but there are still a lot of problems. He echoed what Pullman said, that every time the police leave, the dealers come back and no one wants to come into his store because they’re scared.

The best thing to do, police Sgt. Kevin Fair said, is to keep letting police know what’s going on by calling in a tip or by anonymously texting information through tip411.

Officers patrol the area daily and try to make it so residents and visitors aren’t bothered by individuals trying to sell them narcotics, he said.

“Our guys are working on it,” Fair said. “Our patrol officers do the best that they can.”

Contact: 609-272-7241 Twitter @ACPressMollyB

Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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