An Annapolis alderman has proposed "sealing off" the city's public housing projects to stop the record number of killings and to prevent drug dealers from plying their trade.
Speaking at a news conference called by black leaders Saturday to address a recent wave of violence, Samuel Gilmer, D-Ward 3, said entrance gates and private guards may be the only answer.
"This will prevent the continuous traffic in and out of that community," the alderman said. "(We need) to seal off all of these housing projects and let the people in those projects begin to have some kind of feeling of safety."
Harold Greene, executive director of theAnnapolis Housing Authority, said Gilmer's proposal will be "considered very carefully," noting that the concept has worked in Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia.
Greene also announced plans to beef up security in many of the city's public housing communities by installing a card-access system at building entrances and establishing enhanced neighborhood watch programs that would provide direct communication to police.
Alderman Carl Snowden, D-Ward 5, who called the news conference, said he does not believe it is time to set up barricades around public housing communities. He said comments by speakers did not reflect a group or community consensus on how to deal with violence, but were
meant to start debate.
Seven community leaders representing support groups, local churches and elected officials spoke in the City Hall chambers. All said the violence must come to an end.
Five people were murdered in Annapolis last year, up from three in 1989.Police say all but one of the killings were drug-related.
Last Thursday, two or three men sprayed gunfire across a Bowman Court parking lot into a crowd of people, seriously injuring an Annapolis man -- who had been shot eight times in 1988.
On Jan. 3, police arrested a 17-year-old boy on murder charges following an execution-style slaying of an Arnold student, whom police say owed money for cocaine to agang of New York drug dealers.
"It is indeed sad that already more people have died in our inner cities by homicide than have died in the Persian Gulf by accident," Snowden said.
Some speakers called for rallies, "family summits" and more centers for helping people who live in the inner city. Others said attitudes must change among adults and parents so that another generation of youth doesn't grow up to kill.
"(The church) should set the moral tone in which drugs arenot tolerated, in which strange visitors from New York and New Jersey are not welcome in Annapolis," said the Rev. Rufus S. Abernethy of the United Black Clergy of Anne Arundel County.
"I call for the people of this city to slam their doors in the faces of these intruders, for they bring fast dollars and fast death," he said. "The highest hope for Annapolis is cleaning up the mess. We are tired of seeing and hearing about shootings."
Gilmer said he is tired of reading about killings, too, and added that his proposal for gates around the public-housing communities would go a long way toward ending the violence. He said every community should be guarded and that only residentsshould be allowed inside.
Guests, he said, would have to registerwith the guard, who would have to be notified of the visit in advance. He said it would be a deterrent for anyone considering committing a crime inside the gates, for routes of escape would be restricted orcompletely taken away.
"In case you decide to shoot somebody and get off really fast, it's not going to happen," Gilmer said. "Make his entrance, his admittance and his escape as hard as possible."
Greene said architects are redesigning entrances to public housing project buildings in an effort to establish a card-access or intercom system.
He said putting up guardhouses and gates would be impracticalbecause many of the housing complexes face on to public streets, which would have to be closed for the concept to work. "But we can control the individual entrances to the buildings, and that is what we are going to concentrate on."
Greene said that each building will have a "building captain" who will be responsible for patrolling the grounds and reporting suspicious activity directly to police. He also said he wants to establish a satellite police office in Harbour House,to give residents direct access to the police.