A few months ago, a frustrated Alderman Samuel Gilmer proposed to stop narcotics trafficking and drug-related killings by barricading Annapolis public housing projects. "We need to seal off all these housing projects and let the people in those projects begin to have some kind of feeling of safety," he declared, triggering an instant controversy.
Annapolis authorities are now trying a less radical but, perhaps, a more realistic approach. The police department has opened a sub-station at Harbour House, a sprawling 278-unit development that is the city's largest public housing project.
Two police officers will work out of a basement apartment, walking beats or cruising the grounds in a golf cart. Additionally, the Community Oriented Police Squad, a city-wide task force of eight officers, will be headquartered at Harbour House. "It's a beginning," says Alderman Carl O. Snowden.
In their problems, Harbor House and the adjacent Eastport Terrace project are composites of the city's 10 public housing developments. If the police program succeeds, community law enforcement could be spread to all of them, says Harold Greene, the housing authority's executive director.
A $250,000 federal grant is financing the Harbour House-Eastport Terrace initiative, which also includes programs to provide counseling and preventive action against drug abuse.
Community policing is the current fad in law enforcement. It is a concept that requires patience, expense and understanding that have often not been part of aggressive crime-fighting. Relations between the Annapolis police and housing project residents often have been rocky in the past.
This new effort has much promise and will require time and support to succeed. "I think residents will realize we are not an occupying force," says Police Chief Harold Robbins. "We are regular people doing a difficult job and we need the help and cooperation of the community."