Shooting near North Avenue sadly confirms 'crack alley' reputation

July 10, 1991|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Evening Sun Staff

Charlene Miller knew of the drug activity in the area known as "Crack Alley" near her home in the 3000 block of W. North Ave. and refused to let either of her daughters play there.

The area just south of North Avenue in the Walbrook section of West Baltimore has long been known as an open-air drug market where nearly any drug was sold.

And, along with the drugs, was violence.

Miller's daughter, Tiffany Smith, 6, had spent Monday night at a friend's house in the 1800 block of N. Rosedale St. -- less than 50 yards from her home -- and asked her mother if she could spend another.

"I said she could. She was so happy and she kissed me when she left," Miller said today. "That's the last thing I remember her doing."

Shortly after 10:30 last night, Tiffany was shot once in the head during a shootout between two men as she played on the sidewalk in front of her 8-year-old playmate's house. She died less than 30 minutes later. No arrests have been made.

Miller, who has lived in the West North Avenue rowhouse for 10 years, said Tiffany, the youngest of her two daughters, normally played in front of their house.

"There is no logic to this. It just doesn't make sense," she said.

Miller said she heard the volley of gunshots and was frightened by them, but didn't think her daughter had been shot.

"The shots just scared me. They were real fast."

Tiffany, a cheerful, pigtailed second-grader at nearby Edgewood Elementary School who enjoyed playing video games and watching cartoons, was playing with her dolls when she was shot, her mother said.

"That's what she always did. She enjoyed doing that," said Miller, 26. "It was kind of bad around there, but I thought she would be playing in the house. Someone was watching them."

James Miller, Tiffany's uncle, said there are no supervised recreational centers in the area and that children are forced to play on the sidewalks or in the alleys.

Residents of the 1800 block of N. Rosedale St. said children often play on the sidewalk on hot summer nights while their parents sit and talk on their front stoops.

Today, the bloodstained sidewalk on Rosedale Street serves as a warning that stoop sitting in the area may have come to an end.

Evelyn Anders, who lives nearby on Westward Avenue, said she used to sit on her front porch in past summers and did for several days this summer.

"It used to be interesting watching them [drug dealers] sell drugs," Anders said. "They don't care who sees them, they're making money."

Anders said the drug dealers -- who have twice approached her and daughter in trying to sell drugs -- are not concerned about residents reporting their actions to police. "They know that if they find out who did, they'll take care of that person," Anders said.

"During the day and most of the evening hours, you've got a bunch of old men sitting around drunk. It changes at night. Drugs take over," said Edward Greene, who frequents the area.

A woman who lives next to where Tiffany was to have spent the night said gunshots are frequent in the area and residents "hold their breath" until they are sure no one has been shot.

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