For a dozen years, Theresa Anderson was the queen of Deshler Street. The unassuming 58-year-old owned five small wooden houses along the poor side street, filling them with her children, grandchildren and other relatives who kept their lots tidy, watched out for trouble, and pitched in with the family business. That the family business was selling crack cocaine at all hours of the day and night didn't seem to matter to some of the neighbors, who say their little street on Buffalo's impoverished east side has actually gotten less secure since SWAT teams stormed in and shut down Anderson's drug operation last year.
"I miss Theresa, I really do," says a neighbor who has lived on the street for nine years. When Anderson was in control, "I actually felt safer. Now my place has been broken into." Other neighbors complain that prostitutes and their johns have now invaded the area. Anderson, who is set to be sentenced this week to up to 17 years for conspiracy, agreed to forfeit 10 houses as part of a plea agreement. A city council member says the praise for the grandmother is a "sad commentary" on the district's problems. "It's like the old days of Prohibition when you looked for the mob to keep order on your street," he says. "But it's a false sense of security. She's bringing criminals into the neighborhood." (In other drug dealer news, a trafficker was recently crushed to death by his own marijuana stash.)