Police Solicit Community's Help On Crime

January 22, 1991|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Staff writer

As city and police officials develop new strategies to curb growing violence and drug use in Annapolis, they also urge residents to take a more active role.

"The community has to take a stand and inform us when things are going on that are illegal," said city police Chief Harold Robbins. "There is some apathy and fear."

Last week, Alderman Carl O. Snowden, D-Ward 5, and former Mayor Dennis Callahan called for a new police unit similar to the defunct Delta Force, which fought street-level drug dealing in the city's public housing projects until it was disbanded in 1989. Snowden and Callahan said drug-related violence began to increase shortly after the controversial unit was dissolved.

Created by Callahan in 1987, Delta Force drew support for its efforts in the city's toughest neighborhoods but was severely criticized because its members reported directly to the mayor's office.

Although Robbins would not provide details of the department's plan, he did say a special unit could be formed.

"But it would be different," he said. "For one thing, it's not going to be run out of the mayor's office. I would hope that we could realize all the positive aspects and none of the negative (of Delta Force)."

Annapolis had a record five homicides in 1990, up from threein 1989, and officials fear continuing turf wars among drug dealers will fuel more violence.

Last Monday, Sylvester Wayne Johnson, 22,of the 200 block of Pindell Road, was found shot to death in his carparked on President Street.

The week before, Dominic T. Boston, 23, of the 200 block of Openview Lane, was seriously injured by a stray bullet during a gun battle between three Washington, D.C., men and a 17-year-old youth on Bowman Court.

Less than a month ago, two men stepped from a taxi and gunned down Darryl Downs, 18, in the Bywater Mutual Homes section of Annapolis. A 17-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., youth has been charged with first-degree murder, and police still are looking for a second man.

Snowden agreed with Robbins that residents of the community must stop giving drug dealers a "refuge and safe haven."

"What has to happen is a climate of intolerance of drug dealers, and we have not reached that yet," he said. "Drug dealers cannot operate without the consent of the community, and obviously the community has been tolerating it."

Snowden said that while he doubted Delta Force would be revived, some of the tactics it used should be implemented again.

Many public housing residents have called for creation of a drug unit similar to Delta Force, whose high-visibility tactics apparently pushed dealers off busy street corners, effectively shutting down many open-air drug markets.

"I think the violence would go away," said one woman who asked not to be named. "Now, I seea whole lot of people hanging out, and it has gotten worse. It's noteven safe to walk up the street. You might get shot."

The woman, a public housing resident, said the police need to increase patrols.

Robbins agreed. "I think increased visibility could reduce the problem," he said.

Rosalie Mitchell, president of the Harbor House Tenants Council, said the original Delta Force should be reinstated.

"The old Delta Force knew how to approach the people here, and they did it differently than the so-called Delta Force they have out here now," she said. "And it worked. Things have gotten worse now. Children are outside playing, and anything could happen."

But Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins said: "We have a Delta Force, but by a different name. It's vice and narcotics."

Harold Greene, executive director of the city's housing authority, said the city might use the $250,000 federal grant it received to pay officers for extra patrols in troubled neighborhoods.

"It's known as rent-a-cop. We were considering at one point maybe using county police, but we would prefer using Annapolis city," he said.

Greene has also talked about starting a satellite police station in one of the city's projects.

But these plans may mean the department would have to add more officers to its 115-memberforce.

"Everyone thinks that because we have 115 people, there are 115 people out there working. Well, there aren't," said police spokesman Dermott Hickey.

Hickey said that almost half the department's employees work in administrative or support jobs, while about 60, divided into five 12-officer shifts, patrol the streets.

Starting anew specialized unit could create shortages in other parts of the city, police officials say.

"All of our citizens are entitled to police service, not just the project areas," he said. "If they want us to do all all those things in the projects and then patrol the rest ofthe city, we are going to need more people," Hickey said.

"They have a serious manpower shortage," Greene said. "The police departmenthas very little resources outside of what the city gives them."

City officials have scheduled a press conference today at which they are expected to announce a new effort to improve neighborhood watch programs.

Hopkins also said he will introduce legislation next monthto establish a curfew of 11 p.m. or midnight for teens.

"There just seems to be an awful lot of people out on the street with no purpose," he said Sunday.

Hopkins said he does not favor curfews, but someone has to "wake up everyone that crime has gotten out of hand." He said the city police would be responsible for enforcing the curfew.

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