Housing Agency Seeks Grant To Combat Drugs

Money Would Pay For More Guards, Patrols, Peepholes

August 19, 1991|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff writer

Outside a tidy town house at Meade Village, three children stopped playing kickball to tell stories about their summer vacation.

They talked excitedly about playing games, going to a summer lunch programand trips to Baltimore. Then, almost in one breath, they talked about the drug dealers.

For children growing up in the county's public housing communities, drugs are an all-too-frequent fact of life. Even first-graders talk about seeing crack dealers lurking in the stairwells.

Twelve-year-olds say they're frightened by television reports of children killed in drive-by shootings. The news reports of the latest shooting in Baltimore or Washington often seem too close to home.

"Can't you get the police or somebody to do something to get those drug dealers out of here?" asked one 12-year-old girl over lunch last month.

The Anne Arundel Housing Authority is working with the county police to answer that question with an overwhelming "yes."

County police officers resumed foot patrols in Meade earlier this summer and stepped upefforts at Freetown. Last week, the Housing Authority's voted to seek a $249,980 federal HUD grant to eradicate drug activity at both communities.

"Hopefully, it would strengthen and empower the people in the communities," said Glendale Johnson, the authority's occupancy supervisor. "It would begin a strong relationship between the Police Department and the tenants."

The grant application points out thatboth communities have been plagued by drug-related crime and violence in recent years.

From 1988 through 1990, the last year for whichcomplete statistics were available, the Police Department charted a dramatic increase in drug arrests and calls for service at Meade and Freetown.

Calls for service at Freetown rose from 754 in 1988 to 1,585 last year, while those at Meade increased from 998 to 1,674 during those years. Meanwhile, the number of drug arrests in the two communities increased 47 percent, said the grant application.

The county will compete with other public housing authorities for the drug elimination grant, financed by the U.S. Department of Housing and UrbanDevelopment. This is the second year HUD has offered money to strengthen drug prevention and enforcement programs.

The Annapolis Housing Authority received one of the grants last year, Johnson said. Muchof the money was earmarked for starting volunteer tenant foot patrols and other security measures. The authority also used the grant to set up a police substation at Harbour House in Eastport, the largest of the city's 10 public housing communities.

Most of the $249,980 grant being sought by the county Housing Authority this year would be spent on drug intervention, hiring security guards and making physical improvements, such as installing peepholes in the 354 apartments and town houses.

Peepholes are "a small security measure but an important one," Johnson said. Without them, she pointed out, "it's real difficult to know who is standing in front of your steel door."

Tenants from Meade and Freetown attended a meeting to help shape the proposed drug elimination program, known as Police and Community Together, or PACT. Sherryl Harold, president of Meade's tenant council, contacted guest speakers from area drug rehabilitation programs, including Hope House and Focus on Family.

Johnson told the seven-member governing board Thursday night that she believes the authority has "a good chance" of receiving the grant.

In other business that night, the board:

* Approved the latest vacancy report, which showed 52 units still vacant and another seven empty apartments being leased by the occupancy department. The figures exclude a boarded-up building at Meade with 12 apartments slated for renovation as well as six water-damaged units at Stoney Hill, a senior complex in Odenton.

* Discussed a joint project with the county Office of Planning and Zoning to develop a long-range plan for increasing Anne Arundel's stock of affordable housing and rental units.

* Agreed to send a letter to Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. requesting that all transformer stationsbe checked to guarantee that they're bolted shut.

An 8-year-old boy was badly burned April 23 when he crawled into an unlocked electrical transformer at an Annapolis public housing project. The mother has since filed a $25 million lawsuit, blaming the Housing Authority and BG&E for "gross, wanton and reckless" negligence in the accident.

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