As the rain pours down in Sylvania Heights, Cliff Jones tries to keep dry under an oak tree, but some say plenty of other activities take place under the branches, earning the huge oak the nickname of "the dope tree".
Cliff Jones says, “I'd say they full of it, man. This is just a shade tree just like any other tree out there. You can sit up under here and get some shade while it’s hot, it’s summertime, but apparently you can get more than some shade under the tree.”
Authorities say they've investigated more than 400 incidents on the street alone this year, most of them involving drugs. The Sheriff's Office wanted to cut the tree down, but a local tree service recommended some heavy pruning.
Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Rick Hord says, “We believe that they can probably eliminate some areas in the tree that have been used as stash places, hiding places for drugs and eliminate some of the cover and foliage and make the tree less attractive to the criminal element in that area.
Jones has a feeling the pruning is just the beginning. For now, authorities will give the pruning a chance, hoping it will take some of the dope away from “the dope tree”.
Just last week, a Pensacola man was sentenced to life in prison for murdering another man near the tree last August.