'Drug house' yard signs show Flagler deputies' responses to problem areas

Signs mark drug houses, inform residents, intimidate drug dealers

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. – Cpl. Brian Finn, an undercover drug detective with the Flagler County Sheriff's Office, discovered the power of a small, rectangular sign.

Finn raided a house in Palm Coast after several months of covert surveillance. He said the couple renting the home was selling oxycodone and other drugs out of the home in front of their young child.

Neighbors complained about the traffic on the road at all hours of the day.

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When Finn busted up the drug dealing, he said the suspected dealers were more worried about the sign he had than the possibility of going to jail.

"It's happened on several occasions where they're like,'You're not going to put that sign in my yard, are you?'" Finn said. "They're very concerned about this sign being in their yard." 

The signs read: "This drug house closed for business."

 "This is also a message to the drug dealers: 'Hey, we're here. This could be in your front yard next,'" Finn said.

Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly had the signs made for his drug unit after seeing the signs bring change in another town.

 "I think they're certainly getting results for the houses we raid and the houses we clean up," Staly said. 

He puts them in every yard after a house is raided while detectives are executing a search warrant.

The signs let neighbors know what the police activity is all about, but also let them know that they were heard.

"We get so many reports of suspicious activity and these cases takes months and months to make, so they [neighbors] think we're not doing anything," Staly said. "So I wanted a way to inform the community that we raided this house, solved your problem, and thank you for the tips."

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Staly keeps the signs up long enough to take pictures to post on social media, letting the entire community know which house was raided. He takes down the signs after detectives leave the house so they don't get vandalized.

Even so, he's gotten complaints from local real estate agents concerned about property values falling.

"How can it be hurting your sales? I'm cleaning up your neighborhood. It makes it more valuable," Staly said. 

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