Ricks, of Southwest Philadelphia, is the 12th Police District representative to the Philadelphia Town Watch Advisory Board. He says police and town-watch volunteers can disrupt illegal activity by just following the comings and goings of drug-house visitors.
``A drug house is like a gold mine for a town watch,'' Ricks said. ``Everyone goes in and out of that house - the neighborhood thief, burglar, robber, wife-beater. It's a way for a town-watch group to see who the neighborhood criminals are.
``If you get these people arrested for other crimes, you're accomplishing the same thing,'' he added, noting that town-watch groups have had some success shutting down drug-trafficking using this approach.
The strategy ``drives away drug dealers' business,'' Ricks said.
``We're running off his clients,'' he added, noting that police give a higher priority to stopping crimes in progress rather than reports of drug sales.
Indeed, after the Daily News 11 days days ago invited readers to talk about open-air drugs sales in their neighborhoods, many of the more than 550 Philadelphians who replied complained about a lack of law enforcement effectiveness against drug dealers. Nearly all the callers insisted that their names not be published.
The Daily News poll followed City Council President John Street's criticism March 6 of Police Commissioner Richard Neal's strategy for combatting open-air drug sales.
Drug sales clearly are driving people out of town - if not out of their mind.
``I don't even call anymore,'' said one West Philadelphia resident. ``It's a waste of time. I'm moving from the city back to Ardmore.''
Another caller complained that a suspected drug house near 5th Street and Wyoming Avenue in Logan has been closed by police ``as far as I know about five times, and they open again the next day . . . The police don't have any power.''
``If we see it, why can't the cops see it?'' said a caller, referring to alleged drug activity at Queen Lane and Morris Street in Germantown.
One caller said a greater police presence would help.
``The police sometimes come, sometimes they don't,'' said the caller, referring to alleged drug sales at 13th and Wishart streets in North Philadelphia. ``You don't see a policeman in the neighborhood unless you call.''
A caller reporting alleged drug activity in the 2900 block of Amber Street in Kensington said, ``We thought we had [drug sales] under control when we had foot patrols walking back and forth, but it's come back.''
One caller said he contacted the district attorney's office and the city Department of Licenses and Inspections to try to shut an alleged drug house in the 600 block of Creighton Street in West Philadelphia.
``They say give them time to investigate before they can do anything,'' the caller said.
A Frankford resident, reporting alleged drug sales at Frankford Avenue and Wakeling Street in Frankford, said police have made a couple of arrests at the corner.
``When they stop chasing them, they're right back again,'' the caller said. ``I feel it should be done all the time.''
Ellen Maenner, of a town-watch group called Kensington Interrupting Drug Sales, said she wants more state Bureau of Narcotics Investigation and Drug Control agents to deal with the numerous drug locations in her neighborhood.
She saw a need for new narcotics officers because the neighborhood has had the ``same ones for 10 years'' and they ``are known to these drug dealers.
``I'm all for new police,'' Maenner said. ``If you're known, you can't make an arrest. That's a problem.''