Annapolis officials and community leaders hope small yellow signs declaring neighborhoods to be drug-free will be enough to enlist citizens in the war on drugs and revitalize Neighborhood Watch programs.
Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins announced the "Drug Free Neighborhood" program yesterday. To be included in the program, 50 percent of the residents in a neighborhood must agree to report suspicious activity to police.
Hopkins said the city offered the project in response to escalating drug-related violence and to revitalize the Neighborhood Watch program. Only 25 percent of the 85 Neighborhood Watch programs in the city are active.
"People in this town have got to start to think," Hopkins said. "We've got a real problem. I'm asking people to get involved, to help the police and help your neighbor. If you see somethingwrong, report it."
Drug Policy Coordinator Eric Avery developed the Drug Free Neighborhood program after residents who live outside drug-free school zones requested help for their neighborhoods. Under the plan, the city will provide literature to homes in participating neighborhoods.
Avery and Matthew Thomas, chairman of the Black Political Forum, said the program doesn't require much money, but it needscommunity participation to work.
"It's not going to take money totake back our neighborhoods,"Thomas said. "It's going to take people. If we as a community don't come together and work together, this won't work."
Thomas was representing Truxtun Heights, one of severalcommunities that announced plans to participate in the program. The other neighborhoods are Admiral Heights, Germantown-Homewood and the HarbourHouse and Eastport Terrace public housing communities.
The Drug Free Neighborhood program will use the same phone number as Crime Solvers: 267-8888.
During the press conference, Hopkins talked about recent visits he has made to fifth-grade classrooms to talk about drug and alcohol abuse, as well as his experience as an alcohol abuse counselor 30 years ago. His goal, he said, is to educate people about the effects of alcohol and drug abuse on the human body.
"I get upset with people who think they can control alcohol," Hopkins said. "They can't. It's the same with any drug."
Hopkins also praised the Rev. Leroy Bowman of the First Baptist Church on West Washington Street for "adopting" the nearby College Creek Terrace and Obery Court public housing communities. Bowman has challenged other ministers towork with communities to fight drug abuse.
Hopkins said Bowman represents the volunteerism he was looking for.
"No one went to Rev. Bowman and said, 'You do this,'" Hopkins said. "He came forward and decided something had to be done."
Alderman Samuel Gilmer, D-Ward 3, also announced that he will hold a public forum for residents to talk about the drug problem on Feb. 2 at 1:00 p.m. at the Cook-Pinkney American Legion Post on Forest Drive.