In Cleveland, The Land of Sowell, a Letter to a Street Criminal

 In the book, Nobody’s Women: The Crimes and Victims of Anthony Sowell, the Cleveland Serial Killer, I write extensively of the pervasive influence of crack in the inner-city in which Sowell murdered and stashed 11 women in and around his home on Imperial Avenue.
From Nobody’s Women:
Crack is heavily addictive because of the speed with which is reaches the brain. Although people who snort cocaine get high, it takes some time for the drug to hit the pleasure center, as it’s absorbed through the nasal membranes. The lungs, however, have a ready connection to the bloodstream. The rush creates the motivation to repeat the ingestion. Over and over.
“It’s like once you smoke it, it’s like a big rush, and it doesn’t last but five seconds,” says Dawnetta Cassidy, who hung out in the Imperial neighborhood over the years. “And that’s why everybody likes it. It’s the drug that makes you run back and forth. You just don’t get up and leave. You gotta have the next hit.”
The Imperial neighborhood was riddled with the drug in 1990, when Sowell was sent to prison, but it was an epidemic by the time he was released, in 2005.
But in 1985, after his discharge from the Marines, Sowell, who loved his booze and weed, would find almost everyone he ran into smoking crack on these streets. It was an amazing change for him; the very Euclid Avenue that he used to walk to school on was now a hotbed of drug sellers. And with those vendors came women willing to do anything to obtain crack.
Here is a 2007 letter written by Cleveland City Councilman Michael Polensek to a teenaged Arsenio Winston, who had recently been busted for selling crack in Polensek’s district at a location about 9 miles from Sowell’s home.  
The letter reads, in part:
       As Councilman representing Cleveland’s 11th Ward, I have been notified once again that you have been arrested for dealing drugs in my ward, this time at the Convenient Food Mart located at 18506 St Clair Avenue in the parking lot. 
      Mr. Winston, you have to be “dumber than mud.” Don’t you know that one of your so-called “friends” from the “8th-Avenue gang” ratted your “ass” out that you were dealing drugs from the parking lot? They cut a deal. So much for your wonderful pals, you idiot. I am so glad that you are now 18 years of age, because now you are an adult and can no longer hide behind the juvenile court system, Mr. Quarterback, loser. Remember when you told me to “kiss your black ass” at R.J. Taylor Playground and that you were going to be an NFL Quarterback? Well, the NFL, despite perceptions, is “not for losers!”
       In closing, I told you just recently to stay out of my neighborhood, you crack dealing piece of trash. Yet, you keep coming back because you think you are a big man. Well, real men go to school or to work every day and take care of their family, and not through illegal drug activity. You are a “thug” and you know what? There are only two places you will end up at the rate you are going — that is, prison or the nearest funeral home. Quite frankly, I don’t care which one you get to first as long as your dumb stupid ass is out of my neighborhood.
       Have a wonderful life, Arsenio. I’m sure you have made your mother real proud. Remember when I spoke to her one of the other times that you were arrested for assaulting a police officer on East 185th Street? Only a moron would do that. Your fate is totally in your hands; which, is a scary thought.
      It is a scary thought. Winston was arrested several more times over the next two years, including a robbery charge, kidnapping and another trafficking rap. He’s now 24 years old and in prison, serving 8 years.  In 2008, while he racked up the charges, he was in and out of jail until a judge finally realized that Winston was truly a menace to society.
This is a case of how system works effectively. Polensek’s letter of course had no effect. But it’s sure nice in the rear view mirror to see a common sense, frustrated response such as Polensek’s to Winston’s pending frittered future. 

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