At the corner of Woodbrook and Orem avenues in West Baltimore, two young men shove their hands deep into their pockets and lean against a fence.
Randolph Logan, a longtime resident of the city's Parkview area, which until recently was plagued with drug activity, stands a block away and watches the pair.
Logan does not recognize either man. He feels their actions are suspicious and may be a drug deal in the making.
With a walkie-talkie, he calls Warren Jenkins, another Parkview resident, and describes the pair. Together, they watch the men from different vantage points until the men leave the neighborhood. The young men's business, if they had any there, was never clear.
To counter the threat of drug dealing, for which beepers, hand-held cordless telephones and police scanners are the modern tools of the trade, residents of Parkview are mounting a high-tech defense.
A handful of residents in the community next to Druid Hill Park have taken to the streets armed with walkie-talkies to communicate among themselves and with police about the area's drug hot spots.
"It seems to have worked so far," said Logan, 32. "The summer was quiet, but traffic is starting to pick back up around here. We have to get out there some more."
The patrols, which began about two years ago, take to the streets two or three times a week, and are small, with only three or four participants.
But each person has a walkie-talkie, a code name such as Cougar 1 or Yellow 1, and a good idea of what a drug deal looks like. Also, each person has a link with the communications base, stationed in someone's house.
"If something is wrong or they see something that doesn't look right, they call the base and the base calls police," Logan said. "The police work along with us and usually come here pretty quickly."
So far, the residents have had a direct hand in the apprehension and prosecution of several drug suspects, Logan said. "We've even had to go to court and testify against them."
When the patrols began, Parkview was teeming with drug activity. Dealers stood blatantly on the corners and peddled drugs at all hours. At one location, drugs were sold from a U-Haul truck and were available at any time, Jenkins said.
The early patrols didn't use walkie-talkies and were only modestly successfully, Logan said.
"But when we were able to get the walkie-talkies, we were able to start cleaning things up a lot more quickly," Logan said.
The monitored patrols have rid Parkview's streets and alleys of much drug activity, but at first the dealers fought and threatened the resident patrols, members said.
"Most of them don't live here but this is where they sell drugs," Logan said. "They were making money here. We were in the way and they didn't like that. We had to take their threats and abuse and stand strong because we live here."
Not all of the threats were idle. Logan said that after a dispute with a dealer, his dog was fatally shot.
"It was my Rottweiler in my yard," he said. "About a month after [an altercation] with a drug dealer, my dog was shot in the nose and killed. I'm sure who it was. He had said, 'I'll get you.' "
"It's making a great impact," Logan said of the patrols, which can have trouble maintaining residents' involvement. "But we've got to keep everyone interested. That's a problem sometimes."
Sgt. Michael F. Baptist of the Western Police District acknowl
edged that the patrols have eliminated a large part of the area's drug problems, but not all of them.
"Basically, they've been doing a pretty good job up there. It has gotten a little more quiet there recently," Baptist said.
Motorola electronics donated the walkie-talkies after some urging by city Councilman Lawrence Bell, D-4th, who lives in Parkview and had participated in some of the patrols.
"I get home late at night and see them [drug dealers] outside," Bell said. "The patrols have made a difference. But we're going to have to reinvigorate it. Drug activity tends to get heavier at this time of year."