ANNAPOLIS -- The drugs were "eating up our neighborhood," as the Rev. Melvin Tuggle, pastor of Garden of Prayer Baptist Church in the 1700 block of Carswell Street, remembered. If the churches didn't take a stand, the community would die, he reasoned.
Not long afterward, he and neighboring pastors formed a coalition called Clergy United for the Renewal of East Baltimore. They developed programs to find jobs for the unemployed and health care for the indigent, and another that won a governor's crime-prevention award here yesterday.
The ministers were among 92 Maryland police officers or civic leaders to receive awards in a luncheon ceremony at Loews Annapolis Hotel. For nearly an hour, they paraded to the front of the ballroom for their plaques and handshakes from Bishop L. Robinson, secretary of public safety and correctional services, and from McGruff, the crime dog.
The East Baltimore ministers organized drug-awareness marches through the streets of their neighborhoods , held Sunday services and anti-drug workshops outdoors and began "Stop, Stand and Stare."
Every day at noon, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., participants stop what they're doing, walk outside and eyeball known or suspected drug dealers with that look that says, "I know what you're doing and I don't like it," according to the ministers.
"We even will walk up to them and say, 'Don't you know you're killing our children?' " said the Rev. Calvin Jordan, pastor of St. Philip's Lutheran Church on North Caroline Street. "You know, lay a little guilt trip on them."
Also among the award recipients was Susan Plitt, a Catonsville resident who organized a Neighborhood Watch program to thwart daytime purse snatchings.
A year ago, the senior citizens who make up a large part of the population of Academy Heights in Baltimore County were afraid to go outside during the day because of a rash of purse snatchings.
Then Mrs. Plitt, president of the community association, went to work. She called in the county police's community organizing units and began organizing a Neighborhood Watch program, unconcerned that two earlier efforts had failed.
"I just kept harassing them until they joined," she said of her neighbors.
For nine months, she worked street by street to organize the program, which finally was in place early this year. And the crime rate has dropped, said Mike Darcey, a Baltimore County police officer who helped her with the program.