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Why did the dealers choose Martinsburg?

October 15, 2006

Martinsburg Police Department Chief Ted Anderson said he could only speculate on why the dealers involved in the open-air drug markets set up shop in Martinsburg in the 1980s.

"We're a small town. We're West Virginia. I imagine the perception was they probably weren't going to get policed like they would in a major city," said Anderson, who was a patrol sergeant with the department at the time of "The Hill" drug bust on Oct. 16, 1986.

"They felt they'd never get censured or checked for what was taking place. It's hard to explain. They really felt they were above the law," Anderson said.

Economics might have played a role, said retired West Virginia State Police Trooper Gray Griffith, who was involved in the case.

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"The price was high for drugs on the street in Martinsburg, compared to some other places because of the relative remoteness of it," Griffith said, meaning drug dealers could charge customers a higher amount.

There also were fewer rivalries, he said.

He said that if he remembers correctly, a gram of crack cocaine at the time cost about $125, while an "eight ball" - an eighth of an ounce - cost about $350.

None of those interviewed could definitively say why the area was known as The Hill, since it is a hill only in the vaguest sense of the word.

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