EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 13, 2014

'drug house' eyed for months

Neighbors suspicious of Christopher Street home long before raid

NEWBURYPORT — Long before local and federal agents converged upon a Christopher Street residence believed to be home of an illegal drug lab last week, neighbors of the ordinary-looking ranch-style house knew there was something odd going on.

Multiple 911 calls involving alleged drug overdoses, covered windows, cars coming and going during all hours raised many eyebrows and questions as to why police weren’t addressing what was common knowledge to nearby residents, that a drug house was part of the neighborhood.

According to City Marshal Thomas Howard, police have also known something illegal could have been transpiring there, but until a well-trained police officer was able to notice something wrong inside the house — a gray haze inside the kitchen prompting a well-being check — there was nothing legally they could do to gain access.

Police first responded home on the quiet side road located off Jefferson Street in the Atkinson Common area of the city around 3 p.m. Tuesday after emergency units responded to a medical aid call at 11:54 a.m. involving a man lying on the ground near the home.

The victim, whom Howard called a member of the family living there, was transported to Anna Jaques Hospital, where he was treated and released. Howard called the victim, around 50 years old, a person of interest in his department’s investigation into the matter but could not reveal more details.

The next morning DEA agents, aided by local police and Merrimac police Chief Eric Shears, returned to the house and were seen removing jugs of chemicals, cans and other items. Items were photographed and then placed on a plastic sheet pinned to the ground just outside the house.

On nearby Plummer Street, the house had drawn the attention of a neighborhood watch group. Last summer, neighborhood watch members circulated an email about the residents, detailing some of the suspicious activity there and calling on more action from police, according to members.

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