The people who sell drugs in Turners Station, police and residents say, are a bunch of independent free-lancers who do business where everybody can see it.
"It's open-air street dealing," said Officer Chuck Hart, who is assigned to the southeast Baltimore County neighborhood near the Dundalk Marine Terminal.
Although the trafficking is obvious, police said it has been difficult to interrupt because everyone knows everybody else in Turners Station and dealers are wary of outsiders.
Still, residents were disgusted with dealers and users sullying their neighborhood. And through their help, police made 19 arrests for drug sales and use Friday night.
The investigation started in May, after longtime residents began introducing undercover officers into the tightly knit neighborhood friends and people who could be trusted. The officers began to hang out, drink with the locals, and repeatedly buy small amounts of cocaine and heroin.
The work ended Friday when police swept through the neighborhood and, with the help of a county liquor inspector, raided the Heritage Inn bar in the 3800 block of Dundalk Avenue.
Police evacuated the bar about 11 p.m. and checked the identities of patrons leaving against a list of suspects wanted in arrest warrants. Officers found straws with cocaine residue on several tables and a bag with 15 capsules of cocaine on the floor below a bar stool, according to a police spokesman.
One of the suspects arrested was identified by police as Howard Sapphire" Cromwell, 42, of the 1700 block of East 31st Street. Mr. Cromwell was held without bail last night at the North Point precinct.
"You chase the pushers forever, but you've got to stop the demand," said Dunbar Brooks, a resident and chairman of the Turners Station Development Association. "Pushers can't sell drugs to people who don't want them."
One longtime resident, a retired mechanic who has lived in Turners Station nearly half a century, said he hopes the neighborhood will remain vigilant and follow up on the raids by passing along more information about drug use to police.
Past results of prosecutions have been discouraging, he admitted.
"It's pretty bad with so many of these young boys peddling drugs," he said. "But I look at it this way: when they get out on bail they'll come back here and do the same thing. I've seen them go and do time and then come back and do the same thing. We've been trying for years to clean this mess up."