Three nights ago, as Bernadette Devone and her 9-year-old son stepped out of a car in front of her house in West Baltimore's Rosemont neighborhood, five gunshots rang out about 20 yards away from them.
Her son --ed into the house and she rushed back into the car. The driver circled the block until it appeared safe for Ms. Devone to return to her home.
Initially, Ms. Devone thought she had been caught in a shootout between drug dealers. But after learning that no one had been hit by bullets, she thought of another reason for the shots -- they may have been meant as a warning to her.
"It could have been just that [a warning]. I've heard shots every day this week. They [the shots] could be for the community activities that I'm involved in," Ms. Devone said. "They don't like that around here."
The "they" she referred to are drug dealers and thieves who live or gather near her home in the 1800 block of N. Rosedale St.
Until recently, drug activity and its accompanying crime have met only token resistance from area residents. But the neighborhood galvanized last summer following the fatal shooting of 6-year-old Tiffany Smith. The girl was hit by a stray bullet as she played near her home.
"The guys on the corners are trying to scare us and our efforts, but that's not going to work like it has in the past," Ms. Devone said.
Members of the Rosedale Community Task Force have begun alerting police about the drug hot spots. They also give the police information about car thieves and vandals.
They also want to convert a building into a youth center for teen-agers and they plan to convert a large vacant trash-strewn lot into a plant and vegetable garden.
A city Circuit judge this week postponed the first-degree murder trial of a Severna Park man who is accused of killing Tiffany. The trial has been rescheduled April 28. A second suspect was arrested last week in New York City and extradition proceedings are under way. Police say Tiffany was hit by a bullet fired during a gunfight.
"Crime doesn't have to be here. There's a lot we can do here if we work together, but people have been afraid to because of what may happen to them," said Mary Lou Butler, who has lived in the community for six years.
Ms. Butler said the drug dealers often intimidate the area's senior citizens. She said the dealers try to discourage the elderly from reporting crimes or participating in community activities. Ms. Butler said the dealers also terrorize the neighborhood by randomly firing shots into the air.
Ms. Butler said she recently was confronted by several youths in front of her home. She said she tried to avoid making eye contact with the youths, but one of them said: " 'Just go inside and watch television. We know you're in there by yourself.'"
"So I guess they had been watching me. I don't know for how long," she added.
Ms. Butler said the youths might have been angry because she reports car thefts.
"It's the people around here who steal them [cars] and bring them here," she said. "You see all the fancy new cars sitting here or 12-year-old boys driving them. I'm sure they get mad when I report it."